Friday, February 18, 2011

Fantasy: The Radleys by Matt Haig

From the first chapter:
"It is a quiet place, especially at night. Too quiet, you'd be entitled to think, for any kind of monster to live among its pretty, tree-shaded lanes...if you took a nocturnal stroll past the detached period homes lived in by solicitors and doctors and product managers, you would find all their lights off and curtains drawn, secluding them from the night....And if you would at first see that number seventeen is a house otherwise in tune with those around it....It is a house that looks and feels precisely how a village family home should look - not too big, but big enough, with nothing out of place or jarring on the eye. A dream house in many ways, as estate agents would tell you, and certainly perfect to raise children."

Peter and Helen Radley have spent the last fifteen or so years of their lives trying to fit into middle-class British village life. They have two teenagers, Rowan and Clara, and appear to be the perfect family. Peter, a doctor, works during the day while Helen spends her time taking care of their home and catching up on the latest novel for her book club. Sure, they have some oddities - Rowan has a rash from exposure to sunlight, a neighbor once caught Peter eating a raw steak, animals flee from the kind-hearted Clara - but the Radleys are just your average family. Or so they want everyone to think. In reality, the Radleys are abstaining vampires. They've kept their vampirism a secret - even from Rowan and Clara - for about a decade and a half, refusing to drink either human or vampire blood. Clara's even a vegetarian and, for a brief period of time, a vegan. But then their daughter unintentionally discovers her powers and kills someone, and the secrets that Helen and Peter have tried to keep for so long - from unbloods, their children, and themselves - begin to unravel.

I have heard some great reviews of this book. It's advertised as being a vampire book, but not like all the Twilight vampire books. And it's not like Twilight - it takes a more unsentimental view of vampires. There's romance, but it's not the overriding theme of the whole novel. The book is really about identity, what constitutes a monster, and how far secrets should go. As far as writing style goes, Haig's pretty good - he keeps the story flowing, and there were some sections that were just beautiful - though I'm not sure whether I appreciated his literary allusions or found them corny. I wasn't really wowed with this book, however (and I can't put my finger on why), but it's incomparable to some of the vampire crap that I've read.

Maturity Factor: Some bad language and sexual situations, and a couple nasty descriptions of vampire attacks. Nothing graphic enough to be rated R.

I won a finished copy of this book through a giveaway hosted by Words by Webb. The Radleys went on sale in December, 2010.

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