[Haddon] is almost unrivalled at the notoriously tricky task of giving an authentic voice to children, and his ability to pinpoint the comic aspects of the everyday scenarios.
Sunday Times (UK)
Hugely enjoyable, sympathetic novel would make perfect reading for those setting out on holiday.
"[Haddon] writes like a dream. Never showy, but often lyrically descriptive, he takes the reader with him to the core of this crazy family. Secondly, he has a true understanding of the human heart.
It’s every bit as charmingly idiosyncratic as his brilliant The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Daily Mirror (UK)
Engaging....From the first page in which the train carrying Dominic and Angela's family "unzips the fields", there is a vigor to Haddon's prose which carries you along. I read it twice, both times with enjoyment.
The story unfolds from all eight characters’ points of view, a tricky strategy that pays off, letting Haddon dig convincingly into all of the failures, worries and weaknesses that they can’t leave behind.
Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) sets his sights on the modern social novel with a seriously dysfunctional family. Radiologist Richard, newly remarried to Louisa, who has something of a “footballer’s wife” about her, hosts his resentful sister Angela and her family at his vacation home in the English countryside for the week. Both Richard’s new wife, and her cold-blooded 16-year-old daughter, Melissa, arouse the attentions of Angela’s teenage children: son Alex, and daughter Daisy, whose sexual curiosity might lead her to trouble. Angela’s uninterested husband, Dominic; their youngest son, Benjy; and the lurking ghost of their stillborn child round out the family. But most of all there’s the universe of media—from books and iPods to DVDs and video games—that fortifies everyone’s private world; intrudes upon a week of misadventures, grudges, and unearthed secrets; and illuminates Haddon’s busy approach to fairly sedate material, a choice that unfortunately makes the payoffs seldom worth the pages of scattershot perspective. Characters are well-drawn (especially regarding the marital tensions lurking below facades of relative bliss), but what emerges is typical without being revelatory, familiar without becoming painfully human. The tiresomely quirky Haddon misses the epochal timbre that Jonathan Franzen hit with Freedom, and his constantly distracted novel is rarely more than a distraction itself.
Wealthy doctor Richard, having recently married trophy wife Louisa and inherited a teenage stepdaughter, the classically disaffected, aggressive Melissa, is feeling bad about his estrangement from sister Angela, particularly after Mum's death. So he invites Angela and her family—husband Dominic and three children—for a holiday at a rented house on the Welsh border. Could anything sound more grim and humdrum, not simply for the vacationers but for the reader? In fact, in the capable hands of British author Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), this is a stunning and absorbing read. The not unexpected happens—Richard and Angela scrap over who fared better in childhood; Angela's older son, Alex, struggles to shrug off teen dopiness and get it on with Melissa; misfit daughter Daisy, in a devout Christian phase, comes to a shattering new personal place; feckless Dominic's sins are revealed; and Benjy, still unplugged from adult tensions, plays Batman. Verdict: Refreshingly, Haddon takes the risk of making the ordinary extraordinary and succeeds; each character is poignantly real and each small trauma a revelation. And the language! Highly recommended. —Barbara Hoffert
(Starred review.) Surprising and deeply moving....the set-up ensures that there will be revelations, twists and shifts in the family dynamic....sustaining suspense....while enriching the developing relationships among people....organic rather than contrived, the characters convincing throughout, the tone compassionate and the writing wise. A novel to savor.
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