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Cousins (Tpb Om) Paperback – 3 Nov 2016

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (3 Nov. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241187729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241187722
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 582,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


A wonderful book. Salley Vickers spins a spellbinding account of a family in distress (Elizabeth Strout)

Utterly compelling... Cousins is a remarkable book about the strange tact and terrors of family life and the histories that haunt it (Adam Phillips)

Each distinct voice in this complex pattern of relationships is presented with deep empathy and clarity, so that you feel a real three-dimensional quality in the characters. The most painful ethical dilemmas are laid out with compassion and without manipulation. A serious, mature book that is also compellingly enjoyable (Rowan Williams)

Vickers has a formidable knack for laying open the human heart... a layered family drama (Sunday Times)

A story of secrets, lies and history is elegantly handled... She lays bare the inner workings of one family, possibly every family, with an often disconcerting clarity (The Times)

If you're a fan of Marilynne Robinson (the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Gilead), you'll love this...a dark and gritty read (Sunday Times)

No one can dig down into the shrouded recesses of the human heart quite as forensically as Vickers (Sunday Times)

This is a highly charged novel you'll find hard to put down...The novel raises important issues about motherhood and family connections, and examines the survivor's guilt felt by many of the characters that helps to drive the painful resolution (Sunday Express)

Vickers ponders undercurrents that swirl down the ages...Vickers commitment to the realism required by fictional memoir...a fascinating exploration of the often equivocal and always cryptic nature of family love (Guardian)

A psychologically acute case study (Mail on Sunday)

A story of a family rocked by tragedy (Daily Mail)

One of our best women writers...Cousins is a towering tale of three generations of the Tye family, spanning 70 years (Reader's Digest)

Salley Vickers sees with a clear eye and writes with a light hand. She's a presence worth cherishing (Philip Pullman on 'The Cleaner of Chartres')

Absorbing, subtle and utterly joyous (Sunday Times on 'The Cleaner of Chartres')

A magical and at times sinister story about love, loss, secrets and forgiveness (Scotland on Sunday on 'The Cleaner of Chartres')

Beautifully and brilliantly controlled. A triumph (John Julius Norwich on 'Miss Garnet's Angel')

From the Inside Flap

From the best-selling author of Miss Garnet's Angel and The Cleaner of Chartres

It is 1994 and young Will Tye has suffered an appalling accident. The catastrophe affects the lives of three generations of the Tye family and leads to the revelation of dark secrets, long held and deeply disturbing.

Told through the eyes of three women close to Will, his sister, his grandmother and his aunt, Cousins is a novel which takes us from the outbreak of the Second World War to the present day. Interweaving joy and tragedy, this powerful novel explores inherited family trauma and transgression, the limits of morality and the lengths to which real love, when tested, will ultimately go.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 8 Dec. 2016
Format: Hardcover
The description "family saga" would normally be enough to send me walking briskly in the opposite direction, but I'll read anything by the excellent Salley Vickers, and although this is the story of several generations of a family it's not what would normally be described as a saga. Much of it was excellent, although I did have some reservations.

The book opens with the account of 20-year-old Will suffering a terrible, life-changing fall. The narrative at this point is by Will's much younger sister (recalling and writing in adulthood) and at different points we also get narratives by his grandmother and his aunt. It is hard to give any idea of the story without giving away far more than I would have wanted to know before I started. The book is concerned with relationships within the family from the 1930s to the present day, with Will's accident as the focus for how they developed and how the individuals changed. It has Salley Vickers' usual penetrating but compassionate insight, with plenty of pithy observations and also some very thoughtful, understanding views of people – including the difference between how they see themselves and how others see them.

Each of the voices is excellently done. I found it all very easy and enjoyable to read and the final section becomes quite gripping as the story comes to a climax while dealing with difficult moral issues. However, the second section, narrated by the grandmother, didn't quite seem to fit. It's concerned with earlier history which, while relevant, I found a bit of a distraction.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a story of a family falling apart as a result of a dreadful accident. Many previous novels have opened in this way. Anna Karenina is the most famous. A Cambridge student has fallen from the top of King's College Chapel. The incident triggers a chain reaction of family secrets, myths and downright lies.

The story is related by three voices, Will Tye's sister his aunt and grandmother. Hetta, his teenage sister at the time of the accident, relates the love affair between Will and his cousin Cele. We learn they are first cousins, the grandchildren of first cousins. We also learn that a family myth is just that, a lie. Fred Tye had been married before he met Betsy and married her but this had been hushed up because it would only upset people.

Fred is a Stalinist who is insensitive to the needs of his wife and children. Vickers is a child of the British Communist Party and she explains the Tye family's odd mix of poverty and privilege. Although the children go to a state school they are taught Latin by Fred because he loves Latin.. Will does badly in his A levels but after coaching by Fred gets a place at Cambridge. Grandmother Betsy tells us that Fred was a conscientious objector in the war and went to prison.

Bell, the youngest child of Fred and Betsy, the mother of Cele and aunt of Will, is very selfish and shallow. Again, the author forensically analyses each of her characters. But you would expect her to do so given her training as a psychiatric social worker and psychoanalyst. The three voices drag out the family truths and skeletons with utter ruthlessness.

This book is elegantly written. It rips apart family myths and lies. It lays bare with clarity the soul of a family, maybe many, many families.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
‘Cousins’ is the story of the Tye family told from the points of view of three generations of its women. As you would expect from Salley Vickers, each woman has a distinct voice and her own unique take on the matter at the heart of the book, but each is beautifully nuanced by her era’s history, politics and culture.
There is an intriguing sense of déjà-vue as descending branches of the family tree find themselves in similar situations, struggling to re-write a history whose outcome has already been lived out and yet seemingly lashed to its mast, destined to remake the same old mistakes.
The book is set partly on the northeast coast where the family pile crumbles year by year but where the family is unshakably rooted. Dowlands is atmospheric but far from romantic; a family home which might have been a source of pride in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but which has become a burden in the twentieth and will be a downright liability in the twenty-first. It is a metaphor for the family itself, and through it, Vickers asks the question, is ‘family’ still relevant, a solid institution with a firm foundation, repaying the time and sacrifice which is required to sustain it? Or is it, as successive generations of the Tyes seem to prove, out-dated, self-destructive and ultimately untenable?
If you liked this you might enjoy Relative Strangers
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed from beginning to end. Quite sad in places but it shows the best in humanity. It would have helped in the first half to have a family tree to be able to follow the different generations with birth dates etc .
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