It’s suburbia, and a quintessential repressed, British, kind of suburbia that’s on show here, people trying to pretend they’re something they’re not, to keep up the right kind of image with the neighbours.
But the ‘shameful’ past Peter and Helen are trying to hide from their children and community, isn’t coming from the wrong part of town, or some similar social black mark, but something else entirely.
You see, Peter and Helen are vampires and therefore, so are their kids Rowan and Clara. Which might explain why Rowans struggles to fit in at school, and Clara’s reaction to her new vegan lifestyle.
When, at a party one of the local boys doesn’t take “no” for an answer and tries to push Clara in to something she doesn’t want, her repressed vampire side shoots to the surface, and she all but eats the boy at the roadside!
In a panic, Peter asks his brother for help, and so begins a breakdown of the careful bubble Peter and Helen have spent the last couple of decades building around their family.
I really enjoyed this one because Matt Haig has chosen to tell the story of the family dynamics, rather than go for lots of blood and gore (or a brooding love interest).
In trying to keep their heritage hidden, Peter and Helen have been suppressing much more than a hankering after the red stuff. It’s those secrets coming out, that are going to possibly blow their family apart.
That’s not to say, there’s no blood and gore, because there’s a generous amount of that! Which mostly comes from Clara’s attack and Peter’s brother Will, a vampire that hasn’t ever given up on his taste for blood, and has killed on a regular basis for many years.
I also really liked the vampire lore, Matt Haig developed for this one, the vampire night clubs and ‘blood bars’, and even the fact the police turn a blind eye to some vampire activity, in return for the vampire community controlling it’s own.
Whilst Peter and Helen are ‘okay’ characters who clearly love their kids and each other (despite their attempts to prove otherwise). The choices they made in the past, and are are rick of making during the course of the novel, mean they’re occasionally not the most sympathetic characters in the world, that comes from their teenage children, Rowan and Clara.
Discovering the big family secret, and taking their first taste of blood, allows them both to become ‘whole’ as it were. It’s their journey, interactions with each other (they’ve have a really nice brother/sister relationship) and other characters form the heart of the book. Still the family as a whole, are people you come to care for and want the right outcome to the book for.
Will, however has a streak of selfishness running though him that threatens that outcome, right from the very first time he makes an appearance. Despite this, he’s the weak point of the novel for me, because of something he does towards the end of the novel, that despite his history, still feels like it came out of the blue, and wasn’t as foreshadowed as well as it could have been.
Still, this was a novel I really enjoyed reading, and I loved the ending, despite the slight hiccup in getting there.
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