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A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

A Song for Issy Bradley

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

One of the Top 10 books in the Lovereading Readers’ Choice Book of the Year 2014.

One of our Books of the Year 2014.

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2014.

A year in the life of a northern British Mormon family. You’ll certainly learn a lot about the Mormon church but the thrust of the novel is how a family of four kids with a housewife mother and a devout bishop father cope with the death of four year old Issy. It is Jacob’s seventh birthday when Issy becomes unwell. Mum is busy so the two teenage kids, Zippy and Al, are left to mind her. She dies of meningitis. This is lightly written, funny in places, lots of teenage issues and questions of faith, but it is young Jacob’s beliefs that stand out.

The Costa Judges said Bray's book was “a deeply moving story about grief and faith, told
with the lightest of touches.”

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

Picking the right words to help persuade you to read A Song For Issy Bradley feels a big responsibility because I think it is such a special novel. Here are three of the reasons why I love it. 1) Each member of the Bradley family feels vividly alive - it took me back to the awful embarrassment of being a teenage girl; made me want to hug seven-year-old Jacob and experience the devastation of a bereaved mother. 2) It made me think. This is a novel about family – but it’s also about faith and doubt and what you do when everything you’ve believe in changes. 3) The writing is beautiful. I’ve read it several times now and each time I notice new lines that make me think, ‘yes, that is exactly right’. - Jocasta Hamilton, Publishing Director, Hutchinson

A letter from the Author...

A Song for Issy Bradley is a meditation on doubt and faith and longed-for miracles. I used to imagine that it was also my personal farewell to the miraculous but, as I reflect on the Bradleys’ story, I notice a tacit acknowledgement that sometimes, in very exceptional circumstances, incredible things just might be possible. - Carys Bray, Southport, October 2013. Cick here to read the full letter.

July 2014 Debut of the Month.

If you like Carys Bray you might also like to read books by Sarah Duguid, Joanna Cannon and Anne Tyler.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. The Bradleys – two boys, two girls and mum and dad – live their life following as closely as possible the teachings of the Mormon Church. When Issy, the youngest daughter, suddenly dies, the family is plunged into untold grief and confusion. Each tries to comprehend the unfairness of death and to come to terms with their new life without Issy. As they attempt to put their family back together, they find their faith sorely tested. Their efforts, despite the subject matter, make this a surprisingly uplifting and very funny novel.
~ The Good Book Guide

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Gill Williams - 'For a well written book that appears to draw you gently in and draws you maybe not so gently along, it aroused unexpected emotions in me.' Read full review >
  • Jan Kirkcaldy - 'begins in a fascinating way and I couldn’t wait to see what followed.' Read full review >
  • Sophia Ufton - 'Brilliant story! I laughed through the tears. Will be re-reading it again it was just wonderfully beautiful.' Read full review >
  • Francesca Ashurst - 'This is a beautifully written, powerful debut novel. Carys Bray’s ability to take us into the heart of a family imploding with grief is so skilful and tender.' Read full review >
  • Doreen McKeown - 'I thoroughly enjoyed this book - it gripped me from the very beginning....I think it's an exceptional debut novel and one of those books which will remain in my memory for a long time.' Read full review >
  • Rachel Hall - 'This novel is deeply moving and well observed, and without doubt an emotional and involving read.' Read full review >
  • Maz Tucker - 'Brilliant Debut book, an enjoyable family story. This is not a book I would have chosen to read. I’m glad I did though.' Read full review >
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'It is extremely well written and a surprisingly rewarding book.' Read full review >
  • Catherine Hogwood - 'Overall I enjoyed some aspects of this book but I struggled to totally believe it and lose myself in it.' Read full review >
  • Suzanne Marsh - 'A Song for Issy Bradley is a meditation on doubt and faith and longed for miracles.' Read full review >
  • Jade Craddock - 'I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book...but it was quietly and understatedly exquisite...Warm, poignant, profound and original, this is a sparkling debut.'  Read full review >
  • Gerri Tennant - 'Not a book that I expected to enjoy, but I was wrong...Despite it not being my normal choice of book, I'm so glad that I persevered, as I was totally engaged by it.' Read full review >
  • Rebecca Cockeram - 'A wonderful book of family tragedy and how you cope, or don't as the case may be...I loved this book. It's not the normal book I would read but I'm so glad I have.' Read full review >
  • Jane Birchall - 'A great debut novel that made me laugh and cry.  With wonderful well-crafted characters I really believed in.'  Read full review >


A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

Sometimes however much you love someone, you can't understand them. Ian used to think that his life had been disappointingly easy, compared to the pioneers. He had a happy marriage, four children, a satisfactory job and, for just over a year, he has served the church in his role as Bishop of the local congregation, an enormous responsibility. And then Issy died. Now his wife, Claire, won't get out of their dead daughter's bottom bunk and she won't speak. Claire doesn't want a blessing or a sympathy card and she's got nothing to say to the Lord. She just wants to be left alone to be sad. Ian doesn't know what to do to make things better. Zippy and Alma are trying to combine living with grieving and being Mormons with being teenagers. Only seven-year-old Jacob has a plan. He knows that his faith is bigger than a mustard seed; it's at least as big as a toffee bonbon, maybe bigger. It's clear that if he wants Issy back, it's up to him to perform a resurrection miracle.


Browse inside this book


'A brilliant debut, compelling and profoundly moving.' -- Nathan Filer, Costa winner of THE SHOCK OF THE FALL

'Carys Bray is a strikingly original new voice in fiction. I loved this tender, moving, funny and deeply truthful story about a family and a faith tested to breaking-point.' -- Helen Dunmore, author of THE LIE and Orange-shortlisted THE SIEGE

'I loved A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY: such courage, warmth and intelligence. Carys Bray sweetly and subtly breaks your heart. It's an incredible debut.' -- Charlotte Mendelson, author of Booker-longlisted ALMOST ENGLISH and Orange-shortlisted, WHEN WE WERE BAD

'Such strong writing, with so much fine imagery.very moving. It sings. The characters are completely believable and their grief is conveyed with a truly admirable, unsentimental, lightness of touch, which brought laughter between the tears.' -- Emma Henderson, author of Orange-shortlisted GRACE WILLIAMS SAYS IT LOUD

About the Author

Carys Bray

Carys Bray was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut short-story collection, Sweet Home. Her first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, was chosen for Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2015. She lives in Southport with her husband and four children.

CLICK HERE to read our 'Ask the Author' feature on Carys Bray.

Author photo © Colin McPherson

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Book Info

Publication date

19th June 2014


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Hutchinson an imprint of Cornerstone




Family Drama
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction



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