Most families have the odd skeleton in the closet; closets in the Radleys household seem to be more likely to be filled with pale corpses.
I will confess, I have not read any of the vampire chronicles that currently fill the nation's bookshops, nor have I been drawn to the profusion of vampiric sagas shown around the clock on satellite and cable channels. In part this is due to the fact I am no longer an angst ridden teenager and I am not, indeed am unlikely ever to be, a middle aged woman who fills her house with cats, incense and ethnic art. Any book including one or more of the following words: Dark, Moon, Red, Blood, Twilight in its title is unlikely to find its way onto my bookshelf (I am more likely to break my knees with a claw hammer). The Radleys however promised a different perspective and to a larger part it delivers.
The Radleys: the parents are abstaining from their proclivities through choice, the children abstaining because they don't know they're vampires, merely that they have some odd allergies and need to wear sunblock at all times of the year. Inevitably it all goes a bit pear shaped, the daughter is a bit low on haemoglobin having recently turned vegan, she has a confrontation and erm...'sees red' literally and figuratively. As you would expect, having a confrontation with a vampire is typically short lived and terminal, as it proves in this case. Cue some angst, self discovery, rejection and acceptance. Unable to cope with this episode in his otherwise all too dull suburban life, the father calls on his brother for assistance - his brother has something of a reputation and a lot of `history' - cue some more twists. Now, none of these twists are truly revelatory, they are all reasonably signposted; however, this doesn't really matter to the reader. The joy of this story is seeing where it is all going and tagging along for the ride. There are a few areas of the book that could have been explored further, as well as a couple of relationships and areas of the book that didn't seem to add all that much except to paint an image of middle class suburb (for me, the book club in particular didn't really add anything to the narrative). However, the Radleys is an intelligently written book that would bear a second reading. It maintains a good pace throughout, and I will read another of Haig's books on the strength of this outing. So, all in all a fun read and no claw hammers required.
The Radleys are a family of vampires - Peter, Helen and their children Rowan and Clara. But you would never guess from meeting them that they are anything out of the ordinary. They live in suburbia and try and lead normal lives by making sure they eat plenty of meat and staying out of the sun. Their `bible' is The Abstainer's Handbook'. Their lives only start to fall apart when Clara decides to adopt a vegan diet - a big mistake for an abstaining vampire. The whole idea of vampires trying to live normal lives and resisting the temptation to bite their friends and acquaintances is well imagined and described.
There are some interesting and serious points to be made about trying to deny your innate qualities and live a life which is completely false so the book works as a parable which can be applied in many circumstances. The characters are interesting; Peter trying to subsume his blood lust in his job as a GP; Helen putting her energies into home and children and living a normal human life. The children - Clara and Rowan - have problems at school and are regarded as a little weird. Some people even suspect what they are.
I found the book interesting in its unusual take on vampires. The descriptions of family life and conversations are well drawn and the dialogue is believable. I found the ending poignant but hopeful and the last third of the book is probably the best. The first 100 pages might seem difficult to get into but the book does repay perseverance.
on 27 May 2011
"We're middle-class and we're British. Repression is in our veins."
The Radleys live in a village in Yorkshire. They are your typical middle class family, Peter is a doctor, Helen paints inoffensive watercolours, they have a son and a daughter, Rowan and Clara. Rowan feels like a freak at school and is subjected to daily bullying. Clara is quiet and has moved from vegetarian phase to full blown vegan. They have an uncle no one talks about and the kids don't even know he exists. To the outside world, they just seem a little odd but underneath they are harbouring a dark secret.
They keep their curtains closed on summer days, the children are painfully pale and apply sunscreen before school each day and they are pro red meat. One thing that the Radleys don't do is drink blood, because whilst you may have guessed that they are vampires they abstain.
Before you click away thinking "Oh no, not another vampire book", The Radleys is not some heady romance or action-packed fantasy yarn. No, these vampires live a fairly ordinary life. Matt Haig's prose is witty and entertaining. It's a tale about what happens when you try to be something you're not.
on 3 July 2011
On deciding to have a look at the books being reviewed on the TV Book Club, I saw this book and on reading the description, found I was intrigued.
This is a vampire story, but for a change not all about the angst of teenagers. The family, the Radleys, mum and dad with teenage son & daughter, are just living normal if somewhat boring lives in their small village. The kids having a hard time at school, the father a local GP and mum a housewife. However, the parents are actually vampires who have made the decision not to be practising vampires, and the teens don't yet know.
All this is, of course, about to change, as in one moment in time the daughter discovers what she really is capable of. We then go on the journey of how they tell their children what they are and what it means. A long missing relative visits and all sorts of memories and feeling are stirred up for the couple, and as will happen in a book, matters come to a head and decisions have to made.
I don't want to spoil any more of the story, but I will say that I really enjoyed the book, it was all about vampires, which I love, but with a difference. There were teen vamps but the book was not all about them, there was plenty of more adult themes and concerns. Because of this I would recommend this book, in particular, to any one who enjoys vampire books, but who is getting a bit tired of the young age of all the main characters.
I will watch the episode when this book is discussed with interest, and investigate other books by Matt Haig
Of the vampires I have known the Radley's are untypical of their
kind until Clara, the youngest member of this otherwise rather
ordinary suburban family, is overtaken by her instincts when a
particularly objectionable youth called Harper follows her home with
unwholesome intentions after a party. He gets his just deserts and
Clara gets a three course feast. This can only mean trouble however.
If blood is your thing (and it's here by the bottle and bucket load)
then you will find much to enjoy in this deliciouly sanguinary
narrative. The horror is enlivened by Matt Haig's dark sense of
humour and he has made a worthy contribution to a popular genre,
the public appetite for which shows little sign of abating just yet.
In Mr Haig's world it would seem that the many undead who live
unnoticed amongst us are, for the most part protected by the police,
until their feeding habits become too public and too messy.
Uncle Will (uncle to Clara and Rowan, brother to their father
Peter and old flame to Helen, Peter's wife) is a particularly
well-drawn character. Reluctantly recruited by Peter to help sort
out the mess generated by Clara's unwitting self-actualization his
presence makes more than a few skeletons leap out of the closet!
Just when you might have thought there were enough vampire books
in the world along comes 'The Radleys'. There's certainly room
for one more, however, with a story as inventive and enjoyable as this!
on 20 June 2016
In The Humans it was aliens, in The Radleys it's vampires that transform everyday subject matter like a troubled marriage and miserable teenagers into an imaginative and entertaining read. The author takes his time introducing the characters before letting the reader in on their secret. Peter Radley claiming he only wants normal human sex is an early hint the something isn't quite right about this family. For the Radleys the struggle to appear human is also the struggle to be middleclass and Haig has some gentle fun at the way they establish their credentials by listening to radio 4 and belonging to book clubs.The problem is that this blameless existence is always under threat from an attack of OBT - overwhelming blood thirst - a condition helpfully indentified by The Abstainers Handbook, extracts of which punctuate the narrative. The book's action stems from the fallout from just such an attack and the family's attempts to balance what they are with what they want to be.
I loved this. I put off reading it as I have not generally enjoyed vampire fiction in the past, but once I finally got round to reading it, I found it hard to put down and ended up reading through the night!
The story is about a family of vampires living as a normal human family in a sleepy English village. The parents have decided to abstain from drinking blood, and have never told their children, now teenagers, what they really are. As a result the children are pale misfits who are bullied at school and cannot understand why they are different from their friends.
When Clara Radley, the (vegan!) daughter, finds herself threatened by the amorous advances of an overbearing and drunk thug from school, events run out of her control and she finds herself reacting in a way completely alien to her - as a vampire. Her discovery of her true nature leads the family to have to attempt to cover up her actions, and their parents are forced to come clean. In deperation, they contact Will Radley, Clara's uncle, to help. But he is a notoriously profligate 'blood addict' who kills carelessly and frequently, and they know they are inviting more trouble into their lives.
The story of teenage angst in a vampire context is compelling, and the author writes wonderfully. It is always wonderful to 'discover' another great author; I have not read any of Matt Haigs other books, but I'm going to now.
I thought that the premise of this book was fascinating but its realisation was a bit flat and it left me feeling unsatisfied.
Outwardly the Radleys are an ordinary family (mother, father, son and daughter) living an ordinary life in a small village. Really, however, they are vampires living a life of abstinence and denial although at the start of the book the two children don't know that they are different from normal. When the daughter, Clara, eats a class mate who has been trying to attack her the father, Peter, calls his brother Will to come and help. Will if different from the Radleys - he's a vampire who embraces the lifestyle and is unrepentant about it. Will's coming changes the dynamics of the family, secrets are revealed and they are all faced with new choices.
The vampires in this book don't have many of the traditional issues - for a start, they can breed. They do, however, have the need for blood although they can survive without it. The book presents its characters with this moral dilemma and explores how each of them comes to terms with what they are. It's a world in which vampires are hidden from view although the government knows about them and others suspect.
I really had problems with this book, most especially around the character of Will. I could understand Peter and Helen's desire to fit in and their issues as well as the problems that the children faced but I found Will to be a very unsympathetic and difficult character and, although he represented a different way of living to offer the family as well as significant temptation, I wasn't entirely sure that his character worked well within the story - he seemed too over the top. The middle class lifestyle was well observed especially with the hints of passion and danger underneath. I also liked the extracts from the "Abstainer's Handbook", Overall, however, the story didn't work for me.
on 26 September 2011
Haig, apparently is not 'jumping on the bandwagon'. Then why release such a very, very average book? I read 'The Last Family In England' and quite enjoyed the quirkiness, a dog narating the story (reminiscent of 'The Fluke' by James Herbert). But sadly, this effort has nothing to offer. Not a horror story nor a love story just...well..a story with vampires in it.
The characters are very similar to the one's in 'The Last Family In England'. Middle-class, dysfunctional, 2 angst ridden teenagers, one who is the offspring of a close friend/member of the family, unbeknown to the 'dad'. Wife who likes a bit of infidelity. Are you trying to exorcise some demons Matt?
The story has a beginning, a middle and an end. That about sums it up. No twists and turns, no surprises, nothing.
I see it was a recommended 'summer read'. Well, if it is the only book that you can find by all means read it. Just make sure you haven't paid for it because, you will feel let down.
Now it is to be made into a film. I'm totally baffled! Bandwagon jumping? Of course not!
on 14 May 2014
Well, this is a curious book which, ultimately, sadly, falls somewhat awkwardly between two or three stools.
Partly it’s a Young Adult coming of age vampire novel. Partly it’s a reflection on middle age and middle-aged ennui. Partly it’s about family and relationships.
The titular Radleys (it’s difficult to imagine this is not some kind of reference to Boo Radley – or perhaps not) are a family living in a Yorkshire village. The father, Peter – a local GP – is married to stay-at-home mother Helen. Their two teenaged children are Clara and Rowan.
They’re all vampires, but Clara and Rowan don’t know this, because Helen and Peter decided, before the children were born (when did vampires become able to breed?) to abstain from ‘normal’ vampire activities and to instead try to blend in, as best as they can, with the human population.
Trouble arises when Clara is the victim of an attempted sexual assault after a party. She attacks and kills the perpetrator. Peter’s brother – who has enjoyed ‘living’ as a ‘proper’ vampire all long – is summoned to help clear up the resultant mess. Things don’t go according to plan, as you might expect.
This book left me feeling rather perplexed. I think Haig has introduced too many new “rules” as far vampire lore is concerned. Or possibly it’s more that these new rules aren’t very interesting. The attraction of vampires is that they are among us but so very different from us. What’s so interesting about vampires trying to be just like us? And when did vampires become able to exist without human blood? And when did they become able to walk about in the daytime? And when did they become visible in mirrors?
The more Haig plays with the rules, the less interesting the vampires become.
Peter’s mid-life crisis was also rather clumsily handled. It seemed more of a cartoon, or sit-com, version of events. I note that Haig was 36 when this book was published, a few years away, perhaps, from his own mid-life crisis. Give him another 15 years and he might be able to write about this subject with a little more authority!
I also made the mistake of reading a US version of the novel. Changes – like chemist to drug-store, and bin-man to garbageman – were irritating, but that’s hardly a fault of the novel or Haig.
I think Haig has tried to bring something new to the YA vampire genre but this just didn’t float my boat. And, yes, that might very well be because it’s been decades since I was a YA!