Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: The Radleys, by Matt Haig


The Radleys
Matt Haig
Hardcover, 384
Free Press
(Imprint of Simon & Schuster)
December 28, 2010

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking—and disturbingly satisfying—act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain—and lose—when we deny our appetites.


Vampire novels and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship here lately. I mean, I love vampire novels, but not a lot of them are living up to what I would consider a good vampire novel. Thankfully, that's not the case with The Radleys.

I think the thing that caught me off-guard was that the Radleys did seem like a typical British family at first. Clara and Rowan definitely are under assumption that they are, until Clara tries to take a bite of her classmate. I loved both of the children, though I think my heart ached for Rowan more, who is constantly bullied and has an undeniable crush on his sister's best friend. For me though, I think my absolute favorite characters have to be the parents, Peter and Helen. They go through some turmoil in the book but try to cover it up for the children - as any parents would do - but it soon takes its own toll. And Will? He comes in to help, but things just seem to go from bad to worse.

This novel is described as a 'domestic drama' and has been compared to American Beauty. While I agree to both accounts, I think that this novel stands out entirely on its own in a unique way (the vampire tidbit being a big part) and even though it is a dark tale, it has it's own tongue-in-cheek moments that will relieve some of the tension of the novel. There is also talk that it's being re-marketed as a Young Adult book which it can pass for, but it's a more mature YA book.

The Radleys is a well-written, wonderfully original story that almost everyone in the family can enjoy for one aspect or another. This novel had me from the start and didn't let go until the very end. Although it wraps up nicely at the end, I would love to see a sequel now that the secret is out for all of the Radleys.

Source: Publisher & Free Press Blog Tours



Avg. Rating: 3.5




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