The Radleys Paperback – 13 Jun 2011
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"Dripping in blood, this is a story of family secrets so terrible that they shouldn't be uncovered." (Guardian)
"Red-blooded fiction at its most seductive." (Sunday Telegraph)
"Delightfully eccentric . . . a strangely moving portrait of a marriage." (The Financial Times)
A sharp, bloody tale of abstinence and indulgence (and
trying not to eat the neighbours).
"Reality bites in a funny family affair. . . pointed, clever and witty." (Kim Newman Independent)
"A witty and humane story about a family of vampires living in respectable English suburbia." (Daily Mail)
"Haig's very original spin on the [vampire] myth is insightful, frightening and uplifting." (The Guardian)
"Smart, snappy, quirky . . . as much a satire on self-denying suburban life as a straightforward bloodthirsty tale." (Scotsman)
"Ratchets up the pace and the tension until the taut conclusion. Bloody good fun." (SFX Magazine)
"Switches deftly between a classic Carrie-style narrative of teen difference, in which the kids are teased for their outsiderness, and a parental tale of mid-life crisis." (Herald)
Families. Sometimes they're a bloody nightmare . . .See all Product description
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‘The Radleys’ reads like twilight fan fiction, or ‘The Lost Boys: the pensioner years’. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief but it has to feel vaguely realistic. Or if completely absurd at least set in a world with a history and rules that one can relate to in some way.
This however felt more like a vague idea the author had, but with no way of communicating without resorting to soap like tropes, predictable character backstories and soppy sentimental story arcs.
To summarise, forget this and jump straight to Haig’s later works as his style has matured so dramatically. I hope more of that work is in his future and not more of this.
I found the book to just flow along easily; it's light but intelligently written, witty and definitely not your run of the mill supernatural vampire book. You could probably even imagine the vampire storyline and the weakness for blood, to be replaced with a more "normal" human weakness or suppression of alcohol/drugs/gambling/sex etc. The chapters are all fairly short, making it perfect for putting down and picking up again a bit later, and I liked how the author gave each chapter a little heading with a nod to what was coming. Sure, it may be another book about vampires, but The Radleys comes with a twist and shakes the whole genre up again.
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.