Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: The Radleys

Summary: 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. -- Free Press

If you are a frequent visitor of my blog, you already know that I don't read many vampire books. However, in the past few weeks, I've read two. Granted they aren't your typical vampire books, but they were both very good. The latest one that I enjoyed is THE RADLEYS by Matt Haig. I couldn't resist this book based on its description, and it did sound like a "vampire" story that would appeal to me -- namely because it dealt with a "typical" family.

If you've read the description, then you know that the Radleys aren't exactly a "typical" family. They are actually vampires who are trying to live like a normal family. In fact, the parents Peter and Helen had been abstaining from their vampire tendencies for around 17 years, and they didn't even tell their children that they were vampires. And it did work relatively well for them for awhile -- that is, until their daughter Clara was attacked and ended up killing a boy. It wasn't Clara's fault -- she was just acting on her vampire instincts.

After the crime, the Radleys' lives drastically changed in many ways. The parents fessed up to their children that they are, indeed, vampires -- which explained a lot like the kids' pale skin and need for meat! And Uncle Will arrived on the scene and definitely stirred things up.Will was was a practicing vampire... and just happened to have a past with Helen -- so you can probably see where this goes. Will's arrival led to utter chaos (and much more blood sucking); and some long-time family secrets were even revealed. 

THE RADLEYS was a fun read for me. I thought the premise was just great and I liked that the story had some tension and intrigue. I did enjoy all of the vampire aspects of the novel, and I actually was surprised to find that the Radleys were a pretty "typical" family -- just like yours and mine. And that's what I think I enjoyed the most about this novel -- THE RADLEYS is ultimately a book about families and their dynamics. All that vampire stuff just symbolized human needs and desires. You will find that many of the themes that occurred in this story are universal to lots of families -- troubled marriages, secrets, adultery, the need to protect our children, and even the love that a family shares... despite all of these things!

I do believe that THE RADLEYS would make a terrific discussion book. There is a reading guide available which delves into many of the topics I mentioned earlier. Some things you might want to explore are: teenage problems like bullying, fitting in, dating, etc., marriage, secrets, struggling with desires, resisting temptation, repression, forgiveness, sacrifices, and the need to protect family members. I think it would be so interesting to relate the Radleys' issues as vampires to the average/typical family!

I really enjoyed THE RADLEYS and found it to be quite clever. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I think I'd enjoy this as long as the vampire stuff isn't too over the top, because I love to read about families.

Brooke Dunbar said...

I just stumbled across your blog. What a fun place.

I just kindle-d this book after reading your review. I'm also not a vampire enthusiast but it sounds interesting anyway.

- Brooke Dunbar

Anonymous said...

I've seen this book and wondered exactly what it was about. It does sound clever. I'll likely give it a try. :-)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I started this one, but didn't keep going. And yet it has had very positive reviews. I may try it again one of these days!

Anonymous said...

I'm a vampire fan and this sounds like a really fun read. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big vampire fan either but you've made this sound like something I should try.

Shelly B said...

I have this one to read. Thanks for the review, may be my next read.

Karlie said...

Sounds interesting.

Matthew Selwyn said...

You obviously really enjoyed The Radleys! I have to admit I was not quite as positive ( I agree that it would make a great discussion book though. I look forward to the movie coming out, sounds like they have some good people working on that already.