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The White Family

The White Family [Kindle Edition]

Maggie Gee
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Conforming to Philip Larkin's famously acidic sentiments about parenting, Maggie Gee's The White Family offers a bleak, but piercingly honest, portrait of an "ordinary" British family. The novel's patriarch, Alfred White, is a curmudgeonly London park keeper who has presided over both the park and his home-life for 40 years. A fan of "the good old days", his misty-eyed sentimentality is augmented with a racism of the unthinking kind. When he's struck down with a stroke his family are forced to come to terms with a life without him. For his gentle, bookish if submissive wife, May, loneliness is the greatest fear. However, Alfred's brand of fathering has left more painful legacies for their three children. Firstborn Darren, the golden child and now a successful journalist in America, still bitterly resents his father's beatings. Daughter Shirley, whose relationships with black men led to violent conflicts with Alfred, is more forgiving but no less damaged. The youngest child Dirk has absorbed his father's worst opinions and become a shaven-headed, misogynistic fascist.

Like Graham Swift's Last Orders, Gee makes judicious use of a multi-voiced narrative. This inventive structure provides a disturbingly intimate understanding of the emotions and prejudices of the Whites, while contributions from subsidiary figures such as Darren's childhood friend, the failed novelist Thomas Lovell, help to extend the vista beyond the immediate family. With the possible exception of Dirk, whose suppressed homosexuality is overblown, her characters are richly drawn; imbued with truly human strengths and failings. Dirk's venomous racist rants, which later spill into violence, are deeply shocking, but Gee's real achievement is to examine the more subtle and insidious forms of racism (and of homophobia) in British society today. --Travis Elborough


'There is much to admire in this novel, for it reminds us that racism not only devastates the lives of its victims, but also those of its perpetrators. Gee handles moments of anger gracefully, moving skilfully between compassion and disgust.' Heather Clark, TLS 'An unashamedly contemporary novel - a millenium novel - complex, many-layered and as readable and quickly satisfying as a television soap.' Melissa Benn, The Independent 'Tackles an unspeakable subject with quiet courage . . . illuminating and fiercely damning of racism and prejudice in all their forms.' Tina Jackson, The Big issue 'In her outstanding new novel, Maggie Gee has audited the multi-ethnic, murderous matter of everyday suburban life and rendered it tender, sexy and alarming.' Jim Crace 'Maggie Gee bravely explores the nuances of racism from the perspective of the perpetrators. The resulting work is a brilliant depiction of British society.' Bernardine Evaristo

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 512 KB
  • Print Length: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Telegram Books (18 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007XF8PBG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,950 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searingly Beautiful Writing 8 July 2004
I really wish I had read The White Family before I read The Flood, as the experience of coming to the White Family armed with fore knowledge of the terrible thing the youngest son would do made it very painful in the reading. Still - it is an unmissable book.
Gee is a fabulous stylist, juggling a narrative imparted by not 1 not 2 but 6 different voices with skill and panache. The changes between the different members of the fated White family and its circle never falter, never stumble. Each is perfect, convincing and awesomely touching.
The White Family is not, however, a cheery book - it is full of many colours of pain - but it is profound and moving. It is a book beset by the sadness at the heart of our society and lives, where relationships are splintered by bigotry, history, prejudice and fear. On the surface it is deep enough as a study of the roots of racism and racial hatred, but it goes even deeper into the fragmentation of our very souls.
The White Family is a lyrical work. A family tragedy of Shakespearean scale. Read it when you are feeling strong and secure. But read it BEFORE The Flood.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view of modern society. 31 July 2002
"The White Family" is a clever comment on today's society. Touching on issues from racism and homosexuality to child abuse and adoption. It follows the White family after the old fashioned Alfred is taken ill. What follows is the gradual opening of a terrible can of worms, concearning every member of the family (Alfred's submissive wife May, his famous son Darren, his daughter Shirley and facist son Dirk)and those people that surround them; Thomas Lovell a friend of the family and Shirley's partner Elroy. How they are all following the same path and heading towards a violent act that will change everything for all of them forever.
Each chapter is written from a different character's perspective. Whilst this enables the reader to form their own opinions of the characters rather than following the bias of a single narrator. This episodic structure sometimes makes the book a less compelling read, as you can put it down and pick it up again without losing any momentum.
The book shows how appearences can be decieving, from an outsider's point of view the White family is faultless. Underneath the cover however is a family living in fear of it's abusive, racist patriarch. It also demonstrates the connections we have with people and how our actions effect a far greater circle than we can possible concieve.
The book may not be for all tastes, as some of the narration is severe and shocking. However, if you are willing to persevere then there is a lot to learn from this novel. It is far fetched at points, a little too coincidental but this is easily overlooked as Maggie Gee's novel is a lot like a soap. A lot of issues and problems affecting the one family...yet somehow is acceptable as without this it would lose the message it is putting across. In modern society what is acceptable?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things aren't just black and white... 12 Jan 2008
"The White Family" tells the story of working class London family The Whites - aging patriach Alfred, his timid wife May and their three children - Darren the successful one, Shirley the pretty one and youngest Dirk, the dysfunctional one.

Alfred's collapse and hospitalisation is the catalyst for this novel, where the White family and their close friends are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths and look back on past events. By the climax of the novel, all the strands of the story are drawn together and things change forever for all of the characters

Every chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. Each character is given his or her distinct identity through the authour's clever use of prose and tone. The book deals with some difficult themes, including aging, racism, multi-culturism and homophobia, by by breathing life into her characters, Maggie Gee makes the reader empathise with them all

"The White Family" has a gripping storyline, some very clever writing and some very relevant messages for today's society. Read it - you won't regret it
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The White Family by Maggie Gee 31 Aug 2002
By A Customer
The five star rating of this novel lies in its simple story-line and brilliantly portrayed unfolding characters. Each indivually revealed layer by layer.
Alfred White, the hospitalised dying Park Keeper father lies at the centre of the story with daily family visits to his bedside triggering the portrayal of actions, feelings, and happenings of each character.
Apart from portraying their surfaces, the author delves deeper into their pasts to account for the present. From May his dedicated wife, to his daughter sexy Shirley, and Dirk his youngest murderous son. Plus family racial tension.
Each intermittent short insight into the family members leaves the reader wanting more. They are not disappointed.
The story past and present unfolds as Alfred proceeds towards his dramatic demise.
The "No Ending" last chapter entrances well beyond the end. Over four hundred pages. A fine novel. A writing gem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Alfred White is seriously ill in hospital. His family - wife and three children - come to visit, and the various chapters relate how they really feel about him. May, his wife, loves him, in part for his sense of duty, and despite his choleric and imperious temper and his crude race prejudice. Shirley, his daughter, had escaped his control at the age of nineteen after he had committed an act of violence against her. She had been driven, first, into a disastrous one-night stand; but later she had been able to make a happy marriage with a Ghanian. He had died and she was now living with a Jamaican partner. Nothing could have enraged her father more. The two sons have inherited their father's explosive temper: Darren is a successful international journalist, but is on his third bad marriage; and Dirk is a foul-mouthed failure and is as racist as his father. The sons have never dared to stand up to him.

Alfred and May are rather lost in the modern world and, in their different ways, nostalgically look back to an older England which, in their memories at least, was more personal, more cohesive and less challenging.

While May is nearly pure goodness (her only failing a lack of courage) and Shirley is a genuine counter-point to all that racism, the men are all pretty unlikeable figures; but they are all damaged and vulnerable, and one comes to feel sorry for them all. Alfred and the children often seem consumed by hatred; but there are also moments when we see that Alfred is capable of love, and his children's attitude towards their father is also quite ambivalent; so the scenes around Alfred's hospital bed are taut with emotions. Two of the children do some very dramatic things on their way back from the hospital. The novel started rather slowly, but it steadily gathers pace, power and pathos.

Maggie Gee is a terrific writer!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good
Published 17 days ago by paul fisher
3.0 out of 5 stars The White Family
Overall the writing engaged this reader but it was of varied quality. Her description of intercommunal tensions was subtle and gripping. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. P. Rule
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
A bold, brutal depiction of race and family in London. The White Family will haunt me for days to come.
Published 7 months ago by E F Burgoyne
4.0 out of 5 stars something different
This was an interesting observation of a changing social culture as seen through the eyes of an older traditional gentleman. Read more
Published 8 months ago by christine davidson
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
It started off well. It was recommended to me, but my gosh it was boring it just ran out of steam...
Published 8 months ago by Zora1941
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, compelling....
Couldn't put it down. A frightening insight into racism in today's world. The sadness, joy and ultimate loss in this book will stay with me long after I've finished it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by witchezcat
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
As always Maggie is a thought provoking writer with a great insight into urban life and the different levels of human perspective. Read more
Published 11 months ago by ginger
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading
This book made me weep for all of us - how easy it is to make scapegoats of anyone or anything who is other, different from us.
Published 12 months ago by Ms A Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story
Good story but disjointed in the way it is written, it took me a long time to get into the story but in the end it was good
Published 12 months ago by Angela Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars Racism
The author told it like it is without trying to hide behind the silly race laws. People are gagged from saying what they think, whlst in the story it... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
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