Published: July 1st 2010, Walker Canongate
Pages: 337, paperback
Summary (from Goodreads): Meet the Radleys.
Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret
From one of Britain’s finest young novelists comes a razor-sharp unpicking of adulthood and family life. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.
What I liked: Now, I’ve had quite a few vampire-related grumbles recently and have whined quite a bit about how the vampire trend of late has made me sad in many ways. Luckily, Matt Haig’s brilliantly British vampire novel The Radleys has restored my faith in the genre, hurrah!
When I received a review copy of The Radleys from Walker Canongate I really wanted to love it. The first impressions were great and ticked all the boxes. The premise was alluring, the cover art was fantastic and it all seemed very exciting indeed.
The Radleys are a stereotypical British family. They drink lots of tea, have a strained relationship with their neighbours and do a lot of angsting in their bedrooms – as all Brits know we must keep our stiff upper lip in tact in public at all times. The only real difference between the Radleys and any other family of Brits is that they are actually vampires, although Rowan and Clara, the two children, aren’t aware of this fact at the beginning of the novel. Once they find out, after Clara accidentally nibbles on a classmate, the story really kicks off.
The whole book was so charmingly English and visual that I could really see The Radleys becoming a My Family-style TV show. The dialogue is spot on and each character is unique and loveable for a whole host of different reasons. I really felt for poor Rowan, who desperately lusts after his sister’s best friend, Eve, but is relentlessly bullied by his much cooler classmates. Clara is great, especially once she finds out who she really is but, for me, it’s Mr and Mrs Radley who really steal the show.
Peter and Helen (also known as Mum and Dad) are just great. Their relationship is slowly breaking down, though they’re trying to hide this fact from their children and Helen can’t shake off thoughts of Peter’s renegade brother, Will, who they left behind when they made their move to Yorkshire (at least, I think it’s Yorkshire) and decided to hide their secret.
After a devastating accident that leaves the whole family in danger, Peter and Helen reveal their secret to the children and call Will for help, as a last resort. Once Will arrives, however, the family realise that the last thing he has any intention of doing is helping. Will is a lone wolf who kills without thought and his arrival signals the beginning of a new era for the Radleys, where they have to work together as a family to defeat the odds and protect themselves and their secret.
Oh, I enjoyed the sex as well. Finally a bit of rumpy pumpy with the vampires. At last.
What I didn’t like: Well there’s really not much to dislike about this book. It’s got everything really. Love, laughter, tears, lots of blood and a quick rundown of which celebrities are actually vampires (note: Jimi Hendrix is one). Great stuff.
Final thoughts: There are a million different TV show tag lines I want to put here. "How well do you really know your neighbours?" etc. But I think I'll take a little bit of inspiration from Emmerdale and leave you with this: "It's far from quiet in the country."
First line: “It is a quiet place, especially at night.”
Total: 17/20 (A)