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Lullabies for Little Criminals

Heather O’Neil

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Quercus Publishing Plc

Published : 2008

Copyright : Heather O’Neil 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84724-393-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84724-393-5

Publisher's Write-Up

Baby is twelve years old. Her mother died not long after she was born and she lives in a string of seedy flats in Montreal's red light district with her father Jules, who takes better care of his heroin addiction than he does of his daughter. Jules is an intermittent presence and a constant source of chaos in Baby's life - the turmoil he brings with him and the wreckage he leaves in his wake. Baby finds herself constantly re-adjusting to new situations, new foster homes, new places, new people, all the while longing for stability and a 'normal' life. But Baby has a gift - the ability to find the good in people, a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. She is bright, smart, funny and observant about life on the dirty streets of a city and wise enough to realise salvation rests in her own hands.

Shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2008.

'From feisty little Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird to Sissy Spacek's blank-eyed Holly in the film Badlands, Heather O'Neill draws on the annals of knowing child narrators to shape Baby's shabby, scrappy scrabble from broken home to detention centre to pimp's lap and back again. Scabrous humour and brutal insight fairly jolt each episode into lif.'

The Observer

'Baby's unique voice and the glimmer of hope provided by her intelligence and imaginative spirit live on in the mind.'

Waterstones Books Quarterly

'...vivid and poignant...a deeply moving and troubling novel .'


'A remarkable novel that could turn out to be huge...a cracking good read.'

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (310711) Rating (8/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 8/10
Baby has not had an easy time. She is 12, her parents were both 15 when she was born, and her mother is long dead. Her father, Jules cares more for feeding his habit than he does feeding his daughter. She has no re-collections of her mother, and feels she is more developed than her father, who at 27 is still to tackle his responsibilities to both her, and himself.

The book is not as bleak as it could have been, although there are obvious elements of tragedy. Baby is written as a wise character, a female Holden Caulfield for the 21st century, able to see through the cosy world that many children her age enjoyed, and able to accept the more adult reality, and the knowledge that the only person she can really rely on is herself.
The reader is led through her life in a variety of Foster homes, her encounters with her unreliable father and his dubious friends, his attempts to clean himself up, only to fail time and time again, the schools she goes to, but never quite fits in with, her habitually changing living arrangements of rotting hostels and downtown hotels.

There are truly tragic aspects in the novel, Baby’s time spent in detention centres and on the streets as a prostitute stand out for their well written, vivid depictions of life that are so easily glossed over in society.
Towards the denouement of the novel, Jules realises that Baby deserves more than he can offer her, and she goes to live with one of his cousin, who lives in the town that Jules left when he was 16, with his daughter, and not a lot more.

The book is relatively long, at more than 350 pages, but it needs that space and scope to tell the story of Baby’s life, and although it has a relatively happy ending, there are a lot of lose ends that are left untied.
Ben Macnair (31st July 2011)

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