Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Radleys – review

Author: Matt Haig

First Published: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: ‘Inevitably, if you have abstained all your life, you don’t truly know what you are missing. But the thirst is still there, deep down, underlying everything.’

Meet the Radleys.

Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But, as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret…

The Review: …they are vampires. Not much of a spoiler to be honest. Matt Haig takes us into a world where creatures of the night stalk through English villages, leafy suburbs and inner cities. The authorities know of vampires but have never publically acknowledged them. The Governments of the world have specialist black-ops anti-vampire squads; the English police, for instance, have the ‘Unnamed Predator Unit’.

The lore is a little unusual throughout. Some vampires are born (Peter Radley is from a line of vampires) and some are made (like Helen). One idea in the novel that I especially liked surrounded the link between vampire and their maker, and why the maker would be linked emotionally to the new vampire. “By making yourself bleed in such quantities after tasting the blood of someone else weakened you emotionally and gave you almost as serious an attachment to them as they had to you.”

They are not immortal but they are long lived and heal quickly. The sun is a problematic though they can deal with it, they can fly, are strong and some can ‘Blood Mind’ or mesmerise and control humans. That is, they can do all this if they are on blood.

Peter and Helen are abstainers, for the sake of their kids, and their kids do not know what they are.

Clara has bad eyesight. Rowan suffers terrible insomnia and skin rashes with the slightest exposure to the sun. Clara wanting to become a vegan (she already turned vegetarian) offers problems as the abstaining vampire must, at least, take in meat product – though never seasoned with garlic. Her decision is based on the fact that she loves animals but they all seem to flee from her. In her own mind it must be down to the impact of humanity on the animal kingdom and she is trying to offer recompense through diet. No one has told her that animals have an aversion to vampires. Birds never sing in the Radleys’ garden.

This is a very readable novel. Haig took the genre and did something different with it. In doing so he created a credible world. There are quotes through the novel from the abstainer’s handbook, which are great fun. Beneath it all, the book is really about families and the secrets, lies and self-inflicted ignorance that can underpin and thus undermine relationships. Recommended. 7.5 out of 10.

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