The Radleys: Book summary and reviews of The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radleys

A Novel

by Matt Haig

The Radleys by Matt Haig X
The Radleys by Matt Haig
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2010
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking - and disturbingly satisfying - act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara's trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain - and lose - when we deny our appetites.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Very original spin on the myth...The bite-size chapters guide the reader from one viewpoint to another....Haig's depiction of teen politics is spot on....insightful, frightening and uplifting....Uncle Will [is] a splendidly evil yet believable character...Haig pays just about enough respect to the conventions of the genre that the average vampire fan should find lots to enjoy, but it's the blackly comic dissection of the family that makes this book stand out." - The Guardian (UK)

"Starred Review. This witty vampire novel from British author Haig provides what jaded fans of the Twilight series need, not True Blood exactly, but some fresh blood in the form of a true blue family." - Publishers Weekly

"Dark humor pervades Haig's entertaining vampire family soap opera...a refreshing take on an over-saturated genre." - Library Journal

"This is a dark domestic drama about a loving but dysfunctional family that just happens to be vampires, though delicious moments of gore maintain its horror connection." - Booklist

"Delightfully eccentric ccomedy about a family of sburban undead...a strangely moving portrait of a marriage in which both partners are compelled to deny their own instincts and longings." - Financial Times

"Witty and humane...Haig writes in addictive, bitesize chapters that pump the action along. He has fun with all the Vampyre lore...while keeping his characters convincing, original and likeable." - Daily Mail (UK)

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Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

intelligent, clever and blackly funny.
“I can control myself. Look, for God’s sake. Look at everyone. Everyone represses everything. Do you think any of these ‘normal’ human beings really do exactly what they want to do all the time? ‘Course not. It’s just the same. We’re middle-class and we’re British. Repression is in our veins.”

The Radleys is the third adult novel by British author, Matt Haig. Another novel featuring abstaining teenaged vampires? Well, yes, but this is Matt Haig’s creation, set in a North Yorkshire village: a world away from Twilight.

Seventeen years ago, Peter and Helen Radley became abstainers. They now eschew human blood, surviving on animal products, even if it means a reduced life expectancy, continual migraines, depression and low energy levels. With their two teenagers, Rowan and Clara, they try to live a normal, middle-class life in Bishopthorpe.

Despite their efforts to blend in, not everyone around them is convinced. Their next-door neighbours sense something, and Clara’s new friend, Eve Copeland, is recently arrived from Manchester with her ex-CID father who is casting a suspicious eye on the Radleys.

Rowan and Clara are themselves completely unaware, knowing only that something is not quite right: they’ve no energy, get skin rashes from sun exposure, can’t sleep, animals avoid them and the kids at school think they’re weird. Recently, Clara has undertaken to become a vegan, exacerbating the chance of an attack of OBT (Overwhelming Blood Thirst), a condition to which she has no idea she might be prone.

Then circumstances place her in a field on a Friday night with an insistent and very drunk young thug, and the inevitable happens. And when Peter’s older brother Will, a charismatic, practising vampire with an insatiable and indiscriminate bloodlust, turns up to help deal with the family’s crisis, things really get complicated.

In this tale, Haig gives the reader an original plot that showcases his talent for portraying everyday characters facing not-so-everyday situations. He describes the English village life to a T, even if Bishopthorpe only thinks it is: “A place which fools itself into believing it is the epitome of a quaint English village but which, like most places, is really just one large fancy-dress shop, with more subtle costumes.”

The narrative, taking place over four days in May, is from multiple perspectives and is supplemented by quotes from The Abstainer’s Handbook. There’s plenty of dark humour, including the irony of a vampire who would be most people’s nightmare, actually having nightmares himself. Haig’s cops monitoring vampires (the Unnamed Predator Unit) though, are chillingly pragmatic when it comes to vampire kills.

Haig’s characters develop and mature under the pressure of events, and he gives them some insightful observations: “The kind of thrill people get when something devastating happens, a thrill they never admit to, but which dances in their eyes as they talk about how bad they feel.” and “It felt strangely grown-up too, as though that’s what being an adult was – the ability to know which secrets needed keeping. And which lies will save the ones you love.” are examples.

Certain Australian beer drinkers will be delighted to learn that VB (in this case, Vampire Blood) is a revered tipple in vampire society. Another brilliant offering from Matt Haig, this one is intelligent, clever and blackly funny.

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Author Information

Matt Haig Author Biography

Photo: Jerry Bauer

In the author's own words:

I am a writer. The stuff I've written includes novels, screenplays, children's novels and journalism. My novels have now been translated in 29 languages.

My first novel, The Last Family in England (2004) was a UK bestseller. It was an honour when one of my favourite writers, Jeanette Winterson, called it 'among the great animal books.' It was a Daily Mail Book Club selection, and the film rights have been sold to Brad Pitt's production company. The very talented New Zealand film-maker Taika Waititi has written a brilliant screenplay and plans to direct the film.

Since that book I've written The Dead Fathers Club (2006) and The Possession of Mr Cave (2008), which have been ...

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