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The Radleys Cover Picture

The Radleys

Matt Haig

Published 2010       337 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can't sleep, can't eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can't go outside unless they're smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

The Review

The Radleys is a vampire tale with a difference by British author Matt Haig. It’s a story of self-denial and slow suffocation in suburbia. At heart it’s a family drama – if your family happen to be vampires, of course. The story has much cross-over appeal, you don’t need to be a vampire or fantasy fiction fan to enjoy this novel – its family drama credentials make it suitable for most adult fiction readers. The parts of the story told from the perspective of family’s teenaged children give The Radleys an appeal for teenaged readers too – although I’d still consider this book to be written for adults rather than teens.

The plethora of cover quotes on the UK paperback edition of the novel suggest that this novel is essential reading, the words “addictive” and “intoxicating” are thrown around with careless abandon. A reviewer for Paris Match goes so far as to say the novel is “a perfect mix of Beetlejuice and Little Miss Sunshine” – leaving me to wonder if they ever read a novel (as opposed to watching films) and certainly wonder if they had ever read this novel. While the book is mostly good fun, occasionally witty and frequently quite clever – it isn’t the most brilliant, or amazing book ever written.

Essentially The Radleys is the story of family whose lies and secrets finally catch up with them over the course of a long weekend. In some ways this story could be about any family living in suburban Britain, trying to maintain the appearance that they are happy and everything is normal while they slowly die a little more inside each day, smothered by the half-truths and denial of their true feelings. For the Radley family the denial is of their physical nature. They are abstaining vampires – determined to never again drink blood even though their bodies require blood to stay healthy. Clara and Rowan suffer from a multitude of odd illnesses but never suspect that they are vampires, since this is a secret their parents have kept from them since they were born.

The story is told in a quick paced narrative style that changes the character perspective every few pages – sometimes every other page in fact. This makes The Radleys a quick read, partly because it keeps the story’s pace snappy and partly because of the increased amount of white space on the pages that results from starting a new page with every character change.

Overall, The Radleys is an enjoyable story. It gives a fresh perspective on vampires as it explores the inner workings of a family who have lied to each other about everything that’s most important for the last 17 years. Hardcore urban fantasy fans may find the story’s lack of kick-ass action, or anything remotely magical, off-putting. Paranormal romance fans may find the unromantic real life love story between Peter and Helen (Clara and Rowan’s parents) less than thrilling but while the story lacks genre appeal it will probably be enjoyed by a wider book reading public as a result.

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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