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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Deconstructing Innocence

In the Unlikely Event - Judy Blume

Set in the nineteen fifties  and inspired by real events, this is the story of a community devastated by a series of terrible plane crashes. The narrative perspective is shared by a large cast of characters but at the centre of the book is fifteen year old Miri, a girl coming of age at a time when the certainties of small town life are disintegrating all around her.

 

The America of the nineteen fifties, comprehensively evoked in the carefully crafted vignettes that make up this novel, is a country in which masculine authority is at its most confident; but in that very assurance lie the seeds of its own undoing. The great victory of World War Two is in the past, the messy compromise of Korea is beginning to become evident. This is a world in which promises are going to be broken, above all the promise of safety.

 

Judy Blume is most famous for children's fiction and her insight into the difficulties of adolescence, and at times this feels a bit like a Young Adult novel that has outgrown the limitations of its genre. However, it soon becomes clear that this is not writing for children; it is writing about childhood. Intelligent, compassionate and moving, In The Unlikely Event  is a meticulous examination of the way society constructs and dismantles notions of innocence and responsibility.