The Smart family are on holiday in Norfolk. The story is told in episodes by each of the family in turn. Mother Eve is a blocked writer. Step-father Michael is an English lecturer who fucks his students. 17 year old Magnus never washes or eats because he photoshopped the head of a girl from school onto a porn body; the girl killed herself; now Magnus wants to kill himself. 12 year old Astrid is being bullied at school and is obsessed with her new DVD and her estranged father.
Amber walks into the house. Michael assumes Eve invited her; Eve assumes Michael did. Over the summer Amber turns their lives upside down. Who is she? Why is she there? And is she real or magical?
This is literary fiction and sometimes too obviously so (Michael the lecturer spends pages worrying about cliches and making silly puns; he writes a sonnet sequence). But there are also moments of wonderful humour. Magnus the geek, who has had his virginity taken by Amber and who spends all summer fucking her has to explain what he is thinking about at family dinner. He says he is thinking about a lighthouse (phallic!): "to measure the total inside area in cubic metres would be really difficult because of the changing size of it as you went further, uh, further up inside. Magnus has gone a really really red colour" so his mum thinks he has been sun burnt and asks "weren't you using any protection?"
I was disappointed by the ending. The holiday is magical. After the holiday, reality seems somewhat banal.
August 2011; 306 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57