The irreverent author of "The Dead Father's Club" returns with a family satire about midlife crisis, addiction, sexual desire, and teenage angst enacted among a 21st-century nuclear family of vampires.
More than any other vampire novel I have read, Matt Haig’s The Radleys uses the condition of vampirism as a metaphor, an excuse to talk about thinly veiled real life issues like midlife marriage crisis, the difficult experience of a shy teenagerMore than any other vampire novel I have read, Matt Haig’s The Radleys uses the condition of vampirism as a metaphor, an excuse to talk about thinly veiled real life issues like midlife marriage crisis, the difficult experience of a shy teenager bullied at school, the danger of trying really hard to be something you’re not. I realized this after at least sixty pages, and was disappointed. The fact that apparently it started off as a young adult later marketed for adult readers might explain the fact, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
The Radleys are a middle class family living in a quiet little English town, husband and wife with two adolescent children, Clara and Rowan. Their secret is that they are vampires, albeit abstaining ones: they are trying to suppress their nature by relinquishing blood completely, living like they were human even though it causes them ill health and depression. Their kids are not aware of their true nature, and when Clara decides to go vegan, thus ingesting not even the little blood she got eating meat, she ends up killing a boy who was trying to assault her and from then on there is no turning back.
I really liked the short and to the point snippets Haig uses to tells his story: his chapters, all titled, run from one to four/five pages, and present the story from many different points of view, mainly the Radleys’ (including Will Radley, Peter’s “bad boy” vampire brother, more on him later), but also the ones of various secondary characters. Despite the wide range of points of view the story never feels too crowded or unclear, and Haig tells it very economically, showing us only what we need to see and little else. This is a big plus, in my opinion. Moreover, the chapters’ brevity makes for a nicely upbeat rhythm, befitting the short time span the story covers.
The first third of the novel is maybe the best one. We are not told right away what the Radleys are, and though we already know it because of the book synopsis it’s interesting to see how Haig gets to the big reveal. The family life feels very natural, and I liked the chemistry between the characters up to Clara’s vampiric outburst.
Enter Will Radley.
This character was a complete and utter failure to me, on all levels. He didn’t feel like a character at all, more like a plot device with no believable reasons to act the way he does. And coming from me this is weird, given that he’s the only “true” vampire in the story. Despite that, he manages to be boring and predictable, and he just gets worse and worse. And yet, I liked the dynamic of this weird and at the same time totally conventional family, I suppose I am more upset because of what this book could have been, rather than because of what it did wrong.
It’s not that I don’t like my books making a point, or weaving intelligent themes into their plot or story, it’s just that halfway through The Radleys came to resemble the “Abstainer’s Handbook” more than an interesting story with something intelligent to say. I am left with the feeling that I was being convinced of something rather than made to think about the issue, worse, it felt like the plot, characters and story were all employed to this aim, rather than reaching a meaningful and separate conclusion, despite the issues the book wanted to take up.
The vampiric lore Haigh creates deserves a special mention, I liked the accuracy and the effort of imagining something different for his vampires, both on the “superpowers and weaknesses” level and the societal one.
(Oh, kudos to the cover designers. Mine has the black one with the fence and I absolutely love it.) ...Continua Nascondi