Annabel Pitcher

In this literary criticism, point of view and major themes are analyzed from the novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher.

Annabel Pitcher approaches a story of grief and racism from a 10 year old boy's point of view. Jamie Mathews narrators his life after the death of his sister in a terrorist bombing. The point of view gives us insight to a complicated situation with simpler vision. Young Jamie often doesn't understand the events going around him. Though his father is an alcoholic, mother abandoned her family and sister struggles with Anorexia, Jamie does not come out and tell the reader these details. The narration of ten year old is very ambiguous. Therefore reader is then expected to analyze and interpret the situation for themselves.
The point of view is also significant when in correlation to the major themes. Jamie is exposed to the unhealthy coping methods his family has taken on due to the death of Rose Mathews. But in contrast, Jamie accepts the incident and moves on. Unlike his family who clings onto the past, Jamie wishes to move on. Also when race is involved Jamie has no prejudices, unlike his father. He befriends a young muslim girl. Annabel Pitcher does not dwell upon the cultural differences between Jamie and Sunya other than a few details. Through the eyes of a young boy, cultural differences are insignificant. Jamie doesn't go into detail about Sunya's faith because in reality it doesn't change the fact he wishes to befriend her. He accepts Sunya for who she is. The point of view is important because this young boy represents the need for acceptance and also the ability to cope with grief.
Two occurring themes in the novel are Grief and Racism. Pitcher's novel revolves around the death of Rose Mathews, the sister of the protagonist, and effects it had on the Mathews family. Throughout the novel it is apparent that the grief of losing a child has torn the family apart. Annabel Pitcher uses the Mathews family to demonstrate how grief can just as equally split a family apart as it can bring one together. Jamie's parents were the first relationships to fall apart. His father begins to rely on alcohol to cope and often lives in the past, clinging onto the memories of his deceased daughter. In doing so he neglects his two other children and his financial responsibilities. The grief of Jamie's mother pushes her to find comfort in a support group for those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack. With her husband being emotionally cut off and blaming her for the death of their child she turns to others for support. Consequently she begins to have an affair and later runs off with the man. Pitcher touches on the irony of Jamie's parents sending him to therapists because he does not cry for the sister he has lost. They believe Jamie is suppressing his emotions and not copping healthily. Yet they themselves can't accept the grief and uses alcohol to repress the loss or run off in attempt to forget the grief. Yet it is Jamie who is least affected by Rose's death since he knew little of her. Only he sees clearly the disfunction of his family and accepts loss in a healthy manner.
Though Jamie's parents were torn apart grief, that was not the case with his relationship with his sister. His sister Jasmine, the twin sister of Rose, takes the role as Jamie's caretaker. She looks after Jamie physically and emotionally. When their mother forgets to send Jamie a birthday gift; Jas send him one instead,making it seem like it came from their mother. She also aims to make holidays and birthdays as normal as she can for him. Pitcher uses the relationship between Jamie and Jasmine to illustrate how grief can also make stronger bonds between family. Also she focuses on the healthy companionship between the two. Jasmine shelters Jamie and is the stability in his life. While Jamie's acceptance helps Jasmine find her individuality and aids her to break free from Rose's shadow.
Another theme in Annabel Pitcher's novel is racism. Jamie is raised being told "Muslims killed your sister." After the terrorist attack which killed his sister Rose, his father harbors a deep hatred towards Muslim people. He goes as far as to pack up and leave London in hopes to avoid anyone of the Muslim faith. Though Pitcher creates Jamie as a foil character to his father. When Jamie meets a young muslim girl named Sunya, he throws away his father's prejudices. We see the extent of Jamie's father's racism when he comes across Sunya and Sunya's mother at the school. It is evident the difference between Jamie's open mindedness versus his father prejudice during the encounter. When his father shouts out "I can say whatever I want in my own country"(Pitcher 138) after verbally attacking Sunya and her mother, Jamie quickly feels the urge to defend sunya and to say " Sunya's country too." Jamie is sympathetic to Sunya and also wishes to reassure her by saying, "Don't listen to him...You're different and it's beautiful."Annabel Pitcher creates continuous theme of racism but also of acceptance through Jamie and Sunya.
Annabel Pitcher creates a novel that is very relevant today. In a world that is familiar with terrorist attacks she tackles the grief and racism that can follow.Pitcher also advocates the need of acceptance of cultures through her creation of the friendship between Jamie and Sunya.