The Adults (Hulse)

The Adults 
Caroline Hulse, 2018
Random House
368 pp.

A couple (now separated), plus their daughter, plus their new partners, all on an epic Christmas vacation. What could go wrong? This razor-sharp novel puts a darkly comic twist on seasonal favorites like Love Actually and The Holiday.

Claire and Matt are no longer together but decide that it would be best for their daughter, Scarlett, to have a "normal" family Christmas.

They can’t agree on whose idea it was to go to the Happy Forest holiday park, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did—and it’s too late to pull the plug.

Claire brings her new boyfriend, Patrick (never Pat), a seemingly sensible, eligible from a distance Ironman in Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life, Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, who is seven, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a giant rabbit.

Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Forced Fun Activities, drink a little too much after Scarlett’s bedtime, overshare classified secrets about their pasts … and before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends where this novel begins—with a tearful, frightened call to the police.

What happened? They said they’d all be adults about this…. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1976-77
Currently—lives in Manchester, England

Caroline Hulse spends most of her days writing, having fulfilled her dream of having a job she could do in pajamas. She also works in human resources sometimes. She is openly competitive and loves playing board and card games. She can often be found in casino poker rooms.

In fact, Hulse is a professional poker player, translating her powers of observation at the card table to her fictional characters. As she told NPR's Robin Young (Here and Now), when playing poker…

[Y]ou just spend a lot of time observing people in competitive environments where they are feeling quite emotional and not necessarily at their best…. It's also a feeling like other people might be taking advantage of you, which often doesn't bring the best out of people. So I think poker has definitely been a really big influence on my writing, even though I don't actually write about poker.

Hulse lives with her husband in Manchester, England. (Author bio adapted from the publisher and WBUR.)

Book Reviews
Brilliantly funny.
Good Housekeeping (UK)

Razor-sharp comedy.
Sunday Mirror (UK)

(Starred Review) Hulse does an excellent job building…. This debut is the whole package­: realistic, flawed characters placed in an increasingly tense situation, resulting in a surprising, suspenseful novel.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred Review) A snappy writing style and changing viewpoints make the pages of this debut fly by as readers will want to know what happens next
Library Journal

[D]eteriorating relationships are interspersed with police interviews and excerpts from Happy Forest brochures as the narrative gradually reveals who shot whom under what circumstances. An entertaining, tongue-in-cheek tale of people who are the adults, after all. —Michele Leber

A very bad idea for a holiday vacation turns out even worse than expected for a bunch of Brits.… A bit too heavily staged, but with good dialogue and some nice farcical moments.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THE ADULTS … then take off on your own:

1. How would you classify this novel: as a comedy of manners, a bedroom farce, a suspense novel, or a domestic drama? All of the above, none of the above, or something else entirely?

2. Author Caroline Hulse has said that she draws inspiration for her characters by watching how professional poker players (she is one) react under pressure. (See the Author Bio above). Where in The Adults do you find evidence of people behaving when they're not at their best?

3. Why has Matt not been forthright with Alex regarding the breakup of his and Claire's marriage? What do you think of his lack of honesty? How do you see Alex's reaction?

4. Is there one character out of the bunch (let's exclude Scarlett for now) that you approve of—one more sympathetic than others? Who, in your opinion, behaves worse than the others—someone whom you have little or no sympathy for?

5. What do Claire and Patrick see in one another? Same question for Alex and Matt.

6. (Follow-up to Question 5) What are the fault lines exposed in the novel's relationships? When do you begin to detect them?

7. (Follow-up to Question 4) Consider Scarlett. What is her role in all of this? And what about Posey?

8. Discuss, of course, the delicious irony of the book's title. Same goes for the name of the park, Happy Forest.

9. What are your predictions for the characters? What do you think will happen to them, say, in the fairly near future?

10. The book's narrative is interspersed with police interviews and excerpts from the Happy Forest brochure. How did that interruptive technique affect your reading? Did it enhance or detract from your experience?

11. Does anything good result from the holiday?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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