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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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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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