We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Reviews of The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr

The Family Tree

by Carole Cadwalladr

The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr X
The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2005, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

At once nostalgic and refreshingly original, The Family Tree is a sophisticated story of one woman and the generations of women who came before her and whose legacy shaped her life and its emotional landscape.

Does having blue eyes mean you will clean compulsively? If you collect things, will you inherit bad skin? Where does science stop and the emotional begin? What is the truth of who we are? These questions lie at the heart of Carole Cadwalladr's compelling debut novel, The Family Tree

When Rebecca Monroe—married to Alistair, a scientist who doesn't believe in fate, but rather genetic disposition—discovers that she is pregnant, she begins to question what makes us who we are and whether her own precarious family history will play a role in her future.

For Rebecca, the wry and observant narrator of The Family Tree, simple things said over breakfast take on greater meaning: a home-improvement project foreshadows darker things to come; the color of one's eyes, the slope of a forehead are all missing pieces to the truth behind the family tree.

Moving the story forward are a deeply loving mother who hangs the world on the making of the holiday trifle; an aging hippie aunt who may or may not be having an affair; a sister with an overactive imagination; and a spirited grandmother whose lifelong secret could shake the foundation of the entire family.

At once nostalgic and refreshingly original, The Family Tree is a sophisticated story of one woman and the generations of women who came before her and whose legacy shaped her life and its emotional landscape.

Part One

beginning n 1 : time at which anything begins; source; origin
1.1 : fate n 1 : power predetermining events unalterably from eternity
2 : what is destined to happen
3 : doomed to destruction

The caravan entered our lives like Fate. Although from the outside, it looked like a Winnebago.

It appeared one morning in our driveway, an alien spaceship from a planet more exciting than our own. Inside, there was a miniature stove with an eye-level grill, and a fridge that was pretending to be a cupboard. Tiffany and I, experienced sniffers of nail-polish remover, stood on the threshold and inhaled the slightly toxic smell of new upholstery and expectation. I was eight years old and susceptible to the idea that technology could change your life. They said so in the TV ads.

I have a photograph from that day. We're standing in the driveway, smiling, certain, shoulders locked together in a single row. It reminds me of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
Introduction

Rebecca Monroe would like to think we're all products of our own personal histories, i.e. what we've experienced. Her husband Alistair thinks we're all products of our family's history, a result of genetic traits passed down from generation to generation. It's an old argument, nurture vs. nature, and something that Alistair studies for a living as a behavioral geneticist. But for Rebecca, there's more at stake in the argument than a career or dissertation: Rebecca's family tree has one branch fewer than most. Her grandmother and grandfather were first cousins in a loveless but childbearing marriage. And her mother killed herself after years of suffering bipolar disorder and the ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
[A] loving, spot-on portrayal of a late 1970s childhood.... Cadwalladr has produced an ambitious book, packed with funny, likeable characters.... [A] lively, rangy, and thoroughly entertaining novel.

Booklist - Misha Stone
This strong and plucky debut, reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995), marks the arrival of a singular novelist who uses wit, insight, and even cultural criticism to explore one young woman's understanding of her family and herself.

Kirkus Reviews
British journalist Cadwalladr's debut, structured as a graduate thesis on pop culture in late-20th- century Britain, explores three generations of family relationships, beginning in WWII.... Miraculously, The Family Tree never falls into melodrama. Despite Rebecca's light, self-mocking tone, this isn't chick-lit. It's women's literature ready to take on the men-and a wonderful read at that.

Library Journal - Barbara Love
Genetic predisposition figures prominently in this tender coming-of-age novel in which Rebecca Monroe, a Welsh sociologist, struggles to understand her troubled family history.... [a] promising debut, which effortlessly combines pathos and humor.

Publishers Weekly
The ease with which British journalist Cadwalladr spins three generational tales in her debut is outdone only by the grace and wit with which she delivers each one. This book rolls the pleasures of Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith and David Sedaris into an as told to by Margaret Mead package that's sure to find a large and very enthusiastic audience.

Author Blurb Anna Maxted, author of Running in Heels, Getting Over It and Being Committed
This is a jewel of a book. I loved it. Carol Cadwalladr is remarkably talented, and a very funny writer.

Author Blurb Emily Barr, author of Backpack
Carole Cadwalladr has written a wonderful novel that is hilarious and tragic at the same time.

Author Blurb Jacquelyn Mitchard
The very cleverness of its central motif--a dissertation on the expression of genetic traits, mostly through the evidence of prime-time soap opera--makes The Family Tree a notable debut. Carole Cadwalladr takes the reader deep under the skin of one unhappy, even cursed and yet utterly ordinary family. Through the eyes of a character so honest and doggedly hopeful, we see our own selves.

Author Blurb Margaret Forster, author of Lady's Maid and Hidden Lives
A real delight to read...such a delicacy of touch...very funny...hugely enjoyable.

Author Blurb Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane
Funny, fast and fresh...Hats off to Carole Cadwalladr. It was such a pleasure to read...A rare find.

Author Blurb Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Blank Slate and How the Mind Works
Poignant and intelligent. Vivid characters engage the reader to ponder the timeless themes of fate and choice.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Family Tree, try these:

We have 6 read-alikes for The Family Tree, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Wild and Distant Seas
    Wild and Distant Seas
    by Tara Karr Roberts
    Tara Karr Roberts is a newspaper columnist who also teaches English and journalism. Wild and Distant...
  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...
  • Book Jacket: Prophet Song
    Prophet Song
    by Paul Lynch
    Paul Lynch's 2023 Booker Prize–winning Prophet Song is a speedboat of a novel that hurtles...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

  • Book Jacket

    Leaving
    by Roxana Robinson

    An engrossing exploration of the vows we make to one another and what we owe to others and ourselves.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.