The Bear by Claire Cameron
Harvill Secker (hardback), 2014
This is a library book borrowed from The Mitchell Library (http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/libraries/the-mitchell-library/Pages/home.aspx).
BLURB FROM THE COVER
‘Mummy never yells. Mostly not ever. Except sometimes’.
Anna is five. Her little brother, Stick, is almost three. They are camping with their parents in Algonquin Park, in three thousand square miles of wilderness. It’s the perfect family trip. But then Anna awakes in the night to the sound of something moving in the shadows. Her father is terrified. Her mother is screaming. Then, silence.
Alone in the woods, it is Anna who has to look after Stick, battling hunger and the elements to stay alive. Narrated by Anna, this is white-knuckle storytelling that captures the fear, wonder and bewilderment of our worst nightmares – and the power of one girl’s enduring love for her family.
I can hear the air going in and out of my brother’s nose. I am awake. He is two years old and almost three and he bugs me lots of times because I am five years old and soon I will be six but it is warm sleeping next to him. I call him Stick. He always falls asleep before me and I listen to the air of his nose. I can hear my parent’s voices. They are further away than I can reach and whispering because they think I can’t hear. I let out a squeak to let Momma know I am awake and she says ‘we’re right here’ from too far away. I squeak again and the tent zipper undoes and I can see the sky in the crack. Her cool hand brushes my hair back and her fingers touch my cheek. ‘Shh, Anna’, she says and the sky zips away again. When I am inside a tent the outside is far away.
I thought The Bear was incredibly sad and moving. Cameron offers the kind of novel that leaves a big lump in your throat. Every word of The Bear touched me deeply. The Bear is narrated by five-year-old Anna. This works really well. Anna doesn’t really understand what’s happening when the bear attacks. She thinks her Mum is mad when she yells. She thinks her father is angry because she did something bad and is so mad he’s staying away and doesn’t come when she yells for him. My heart was in my throat when Anna’s father bundles her and brother into the food cooler to hide them from the bear. My heart stayed in my throat for this whole section especially when the bear is trying to get into the place where Anna and her brother are hiding. Anna thinks the bear is a black dog and tries to touch it by sticking her arm out. She realises the animal is hostile and pulls her arm back in. Cameron does a great job at writing The Bear from the viewpoint of someone so young. Anna’s age and perspective add a whole layer of tension to The Bear that would be totally lost with an adult narrator. I thought the section of The Bear where Anna and her brother reach the woods after the canoe ride was a bit short. They don’t really need to battle the elements or hunger. Not for long anyway. I felt the hunter turns up a bit too soon and whisks Anna and her brother to hospital. I thought this section could have lasted a little bit longer. I thought it was a bit rushed. I enjoyed the epilogue when Anna and her brother return to the spot where their parents were killed twenty years later. Another lump in my throat moment. I didn’t realise until this point Anna’s mother had still been alive when they fled in the canoe and I actually cried.
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