The Land of Decoration: Book summary and reviews of The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

The Land of Decoration

A Novel

By Grace McCleen

The Land of Decoration
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2012,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

A mesmerizing debut about a young girl whose steadfast belief and imagination bring everything she once held dear into treacherous balance.

In Grace McCleen's harrowing, powerful debut, she introduces an unforgettable heroine in ten-year-old Judith McPherson, a young believer who sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith. Persecuted at school for her beliefs and struggling with her distant, devout father at home, young Judith finds solace and connection in a model in miniature of the Promised Land that she has constructed in her room from collected discarded scraps - the Land of Decoration. Where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility and divinity in even the strangest traces left behind. As ominous forces disrupt the peace in her and Father's modest lives - a strike threatens her father's factory job, and the taunting at school slips into dangerous territory - Judith makes a miracle in the Land of Decoration that solidifies her blossoming convictions. She is God's chosen instrument. But the heady consequences of her new-found power are difficult to control and may threaten the very foundations of her world.

With its intensely taut storytelling and crystalline prose, The Land of Decoration is a gripping, psychologically complex story of good and evil, belonging and isolation, which casts new and startling light on how far we'll go to protect the things we love most.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"While end-of-time stories are faddish, …Grace McCleen's novel, The Land of Decoration, is one to heed. The first sentence sets the tone for this rapturous, daringly imaginative tale of love, loss, and salvation… [a] mind-bending, soul-stretching, gloriously realized debut." - Elle Magazine

"A tremendously affecting novel, skillfully and arrestingly written, and one that packs a big emotional punch." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"Starred Review. McCleen adroitly combines cinematic momentum with intuitive description in this novel about the consequences of faith and what happens when we believe that we have the power to effectuate change." - Publishers Weekly

"This extraordinary tale of one little girl's End Times grabbed me by the throat. The Land of Decoration is part social observation and part crazy mysticism, held together by a brutally real story of parent-child love." - Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Reading Guide

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Cynthia C. (Peekskill, NY)
Good book club suggestion
I thought this was an interesting and well-written book. A good choice for book clubs, with many things to discuss: Religion & faith, love & hate, tolerance and intolerance.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Elizabeth L. (Salem, Oregon)
Beautiful and Strange
The book is well paced and well-written, full of lovely imagery and clever wording without being pretentious. But the subject matter is hard - poverty, bullying, mental illness. Still I would recommend it.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Linda D. (Indianapoils, IN)
Almost Landed
Because of the precocious yet naive main character, ten year old Judith, I wanted to love this book. Judith's voice tells the story of what it is like to never fit in, to be bullied both verbally and physically, and to not feel love and protection from the adults who have been entrusted with her care. She copes with the abuse from her school mates, isolation from the rest of the community, and lack of warmth from her father by believing she can talk to God and create miracles. Because McCleen's Judith is so young, and also amazingly articulate, the book is eery:is this madness, magic, or faith? Or just the most fulfilling and imaginative way to cope with a barren, sad existence?
Unfortunately, the other characters, with the exception of Neil, the bully, do not seem as well imagined or developed. Judith's father felt particularly one dimensional and the one adult, the teacher who rightfully worries that Judith is hearing voices stops short of doing anything for no reason.
I really liked this book, but I loved Judith. Every time I picked it up to read, I felt a little disappointed. I wanted every character to be as deep and painstakingly rendered as Judith.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Carolyn F. (San Carlos, CA)
I really wanted to like this book
I wanted to like it because of the blurb and I really loved ROOM but I had to slog my way through this one. I could not develop any empathy for the characters because I did not believe them. I honestly would not recommend this book.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kathy K. (Lakeland, Florida)
The Land of Decoration
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen would appeal to readers who like young female main characters. Judith is a third grade student who is neglected by a single father, bullied by classmates and has no strong female role model until a substitute teacher takes over her class. She relies on her faith (an extreme fundamental one) to help her overcome her problems, namely the classroom bully.
The author, McCleen, uses a rather run-on style of writing in places which will cause some readers to slow down and reread the sentences a number of times. The character Judith is well developed but that is not the case for the father. He is much more elusive and hard to understand. Perhaps that is what McCleen wanted.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Susan B. (Rutledge, MO)
not what I expected
I didn’t like this as much as I’d hoped I would, but it’s entirely my own fault. For some reason I thought this was going to be a post-apocalyptic tale, which is one of my favorite kinds of stories. But (by my lights at least) living in a grey, downtrodden factory town in England and looking forward to the Biblical Apocalypse doesn’t count as being in that genre. So I kept waiting for the world to end, but spoiler alert! it didn’t.

Once I realized the book wasn’t what I’d thought it would be, I noted that the writing and characterization were very good, I just didn’t find myself very interested in the character’s dilemmas. If you go in expecting a heartrending portrayal of a young girl from an extreme religious background experiencing loss and trauma, you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting a dystopic slightly-future tale, you might be disappointed.

...15 more reader reviews

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More Information

Grace McCleen studied English Literature at Oxford University and The University of York before becoming a full-time writer and musician. She lives in London. The Land of Decoration is her first novel. Visit her at http://www.gracemccleen.com

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