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The Radleys by Matt Haig: secrets and lies in suburbia. Rebekah Send a noteboard - 13/06/2010 05:07:38 PM

Being a teenager is never easy, but it’s even harder for Rowan and Clara Radley. An outcast at school, Rowan can’t even summon up the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams, and Clara’s dedication to animal causes is made difficult by the fact that animals are scared of her and veganism makes her ill. When Clara is followed home after a party and the unthinkable happens, the Radley children discover that their parents have been keeping a dark and dangerous secret. And when Uncle Will arrives to help, things go from bad to worse.

This is a story about vampires. I don’t normally read those because I doubt that they’ll live up to the quality of Dracula, which is one of my favourite books, and because I have no desire to read about the modern vampire: sexy, misunderstood, and not really all that threatening. My worries were unfounded – this is a very good book. The vampire described in the story is violent, animalistic, and thirsty. And, while not sexy (which is great), the vampires are compelling, in much the same way that Dracula was.

Haig’s characters are people you’d meet in the street – your next-door neighbour, that clever but shy kid at school, the suburban mother living for her children instead of herself. Haig seems to possess the ability to get inside a person’s head – say the frustrated husband of said suburban housewife – and explain his feelings, his motivations, his hopes and fears. This realism is a nice counterpoint to the fantastical in the story.

The book flows really well. It’s a quick read, with basic storytelling, which I really appreciated. No need to be overly clever, no long paragraphs philosophising on this or that point of human nature. Just a good story, told well and simply. Lovely to read.

For all that, though, it isn’t a shallow book. Haig explores the denial of our appetites and what this does to us, as well as the process of growing up and what we become – can we fight against our nature? Perhaps what I appreciated most, though, was the description of family life and family love, that despite our shortcomings and issues with one another, we carry that love with us. Sometimes it’s crippling, sometimes it’s strengthening, and sometimes it hides the truth from us. The decisions we make based on familial love have big implications for our lives, and that fact colours so much of the action of this story. Finally, this is a book about hope, and people getting a second chance in their lives.

The Radleys is a charming novel about something very odd happening somewhere very normal. The story is interspersed with quotes from “The Abstainer’s Handbook”, which I rather enjoyed as it set up the struggle faced by the central family in the novel, giving the reader more insight into the lives of the people involved. There’s a quiet, gentle humour throughout the book, and a strong understanding of human nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think most people would too.

The Radleys is published by Canongate in the UK and is due out on 1 July. In the US, the book is published by Free Press and is due out on 28 December. It is also rumoured that Alfonso Cuarón will direct a film version. Watch this space!

For more info on the book, check out the book's Facebook page.

Competition for UK/Europe users: - Now closed

Want to get your hands on a free copy of this book? I have two copies to give away, courtesy of Canongate. All you have to do is NB me a review of a sci-fi/fantasy/spec fic book before 27 June. I’ll then send your anonymous review to our judges, and the two winners will be announced a week later.

So get reading, and get reviewing!

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
This message last edited by Rebekah on 23/07/2010 at 08:28:23 AM
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The Radleys by Matt Haig: secrets and lies in suburbia. - 13/06/2010 05:07:38 PM 5804 Views
Re: If I can get a UK address-monkey can/may I take part? *NM* - 13/06/2010 10:39:26 PM 684 Views
Um. Yes. I think India gets UK releases anyway, right? *NM* - 14/06/2010 05:49:19 PM 735 Views
Re: Sometimes we get the American, and sometimes both. - 14/06/2010 06:49:42 PM 1298 Views
Thus far, if you enter now you WILL win. - 23/06/2010 07:01:59 PM 1304 Views
It was a very quick read, indeed. *spoilers* - 11/07/2010 11:36:13 AM 1252 Views
Re: It was a very quick read, indeed. *spoilers* - 11/07/2010 01:22:24 PM 1352 Views
Re: It was a very quick read, indeed. *spoilers* - 11/07/2010 01:29:09 PM 1227 Views

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