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Reader Reviewed
A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

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Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2015.

May 2015 Debut of the Month.

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. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

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.

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.

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

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 >

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A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies. It is the story of Ian - husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop - and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire's lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what's happened. It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley's first love. The story of Alma Bradley's cynicism and reluctant bravery. And it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. His faith is bigger than a mustard seed, probably bigger than a toffee bonbon and he's planning to use it to mend his broken family with a miracle. Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and so sharply observed it will make you feel as if you could pick the woodchip off the bedroom wall, A Song for Issy Bradley explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith. But mostly it's a story about a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has fallen apart.

Browse inside this book


'A Song For Issy Bradley is a wonderful novel, in which grace comes crabwise and miracles are never out of the question. Undeniably heartbreaking, it is also compassionate, funny and enriching.' -- Shelley Harris Independent on Sunday

'Bray slips with thoroughness, imagination and dexterity into each of the characters
consciousness ... [She] is wincingly honest and emotions are portrayed with an assurance that comes from understanding ... A Song for Issy Bradley is a skilful and empathetic dramatisation. The fact that it deals with such distressing subject matter without falling prey to sentimentality makes it all the more admirable ... There are some wonderful one-liners ...Bray's greatest gift, however, is understatement.' -- Grace McCleen Guardian

'Happy the debut novelist who can write well but who also has access to extraordinary subject matter. This is an impressive debut from a compassionate, wise and original new voice.' -- Suzi Feay Independent

'A powerful, heart-breaking book.' Daily Express

'I cannot remember a time when a novel has seduced me so completely ... Bray writes with such clarity, intelligence and authenticity that it feels as if a trusted old friend is telling you the story, that the characters are people you know ... Bray displays warmth and real wit throughout despite the tragic content of this debut novel and the lean beauty of her writing makes it effortless to read' The Times

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

7th May 2015


Carys Bray

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Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone


416 pages


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

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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