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.
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.
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.
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.
on 31 July 2010
My first thought on reading the description for The Radleys? Uh oh...another author cashing in on the current obsession with vampire novels.
And to a certain extent that's exactly what Matt Haig is doing with this book - it's a story about a family of vampires who attempt to live as 'abstainers' i.e. live a normal life as humans denying their blood-sucking instincts.
Predictably enough, this all goes wrong as the two kids are growing up and experiencing the usual teenage emotional complications, their instincts take over.
Yet despite the sense of cashing in, and despite the predictability, I couldn't help enjoying The Radleys. It's a very easy read, and there's lots of bits of humour woven in. The pace is pretty good, and the ending is satisfying.
"Moving, thrilling and extraordinary" (product description) it ain't. But it is good fun.
I approached this novel with the view that the last thing the world needs is another young adult novel featuring vampires; it must be the most saturated literary market after biblical conspiracy thrillers.
The vampire meme is so attractive, of course, for its easy parallels with coming of age, teenage angst and the all-consuming crushes and romances of near-adulthood. These opportunities are certainly not passed over here.
What saves the book, however, and distinguishes it from the sea of vamprisim literature on offer today is its humour. The central premise of abstinence is not new (cf "Being Human", most recently) but it is held up here for ridicule rather nicely. Most of all, the lovely and cheekily libellous appropriation of all manner of artists - alive and dead - is great fun, and the 'vampire pr0n' titles are simply hilarious.
I was a little apprehensive when starting to read this book as I already knew the 'secret' of the seemingly normal family - they were vampires. Not just any kind of vampires, but strictly abstaining vampires where only the parents know their secret, their teenage children have no idea.
Then one night the teenage daughter is attacked by one of her classmates and protects her self by killing him and instinctively feasting on his blood.
The book reads as good detective story from then on, with some interesting twists and turns, with retrospective look at the life before the parents became vampire abstinents etc.
I definitely enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking to read a good criminal story with a twist as it is not too far fetched to be believable (sort of)...
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!
Much like the Harry Potter books, there are two editions of this book. The first one is for adults and the other one is for teens. They have radically different covers and cover blurbs. I really did not think something new could be written about vampires that would be unique enough, and a different enough take on old tales and legends and the plethora of vampire literature out there, to surprise me. I could not have been more wrong. This book not only surprised me but left me with a hunger for more. Matt Haig reshapes vampire mythology; there are two classes of vampires and two types of vampires in his re-imaging of this genre. First, someone is either born a vampire from a family of vampires or they are turned by a vampire. The two types of vampires are those who practice abstinence and those who are full-blooders. Enter the Radleys, a quiet if somewhat sickly family living in the small British village of Bishopthorpe. Meet the Radleys: Peter, Helen and their two teenage children Clara and Rowan. They seem to be the typical dysfunctional family, but with a few more medical conditions than the most of their neighbors. But their family secret blows wide open when Clara not only tastes blood but devours the first person she tastes. When the Radleys need to cover up this incident, Peter calls his older brother Will, and soon everything seems to be falling apart.
This book is creative and unique, which as stated earlier, in this genre is truly amazing. It is well written; you find yourself cheering for the vampires and hoping they can pull it all together and figure out a better way to live. You have a mix of vampires, curious neighbors, a special police unit dedicated to controlling and negotiating with the vampire hierarchy and a family just trying to protect each other. Matt Haig has created a new type of vampire novel and like Anne Rice years ago, maybe one that will be emulated, and copied again and again but never really duplicated. Well done. Let's raise a glass to Matt and to the Radleys! Cheers!
The Radleys is darker than most YA vampire books I've read, which is thanks to the fact that it's a crossover title. Adults reading it probably won't even notice, though I think teenagers will see quite a significant change in tone, content and plot. Personally I liked the more mature nature of the book, but then I am a pretty hardcore fan of the undead.
For me, the high point of The Radleys is Matt Haig's incredibly unusual Radley family. There's teenagers Clara and Rowan, who don't realise they're vampires, and parents Helen and Peter who have been abstaining from human blood for a long time. The thirst and temptation is starting to get to them and, with the arrival of Peter's brother Will, long buried secrets are inevitably revealed. Each separate family member is fascinating in their own way, whether it's because of their very human struggles, or the way they deal with their newfound vampirism. Rowan is my favourite by far, and I really related to him (No, I don't have fangs... stay with me). He's a teenage boy who's far too sensitive for his peers, with more feelings and compassion than he's given credit for. I loved him.
Where it went wrong for me was around the time Will arrived. He's pivotal to the story and how everything unravels, but I just had a hard time liking him. I could quite happily have read about the four core members of the Radley family for the duration of the book, because alone they were captivating. The inclusion of Will changed the whole tone of the book for me, and though he did make it darker, I thought he took too much focus away from Clara and Rowan, whose stories I thought were so much more important.
The dark humour and irony present in The Radleys is something vampire fans will immediately recognise, especially when Peter has his bloody daydreams or their next door neighbours pop round for an unexpected visit. It's satirical yet subtle, and I appreciated Haig's obvious love of the genre he's writing in.
Overall, The Radleys is a vampire novel with a bit of a difference, and I think fans of fangs and horror will take something away from it. It's very well written, and even has some action thrown in for good measure. If you're looking for a vampire that isn't of the sparkly fall-in-love-with-me-now variety, I think this one's right up your street.