This book is in three parts and it is about the secrets and struggles of Alice and her family. The first part is about Alice, the mother of two boys and it reveals the secrets and basis of her marriage to Ken. The second part then shifts to focus upon her son Tim and his wife and then the third part is about her other son Matt. This is a very crude description about this novel but I don’t want to give to much away. If I was to sum it up I would say that it is an exploration into family life and how your relationship with your parents can dramatically influence your life.
When I read the first section, I felt so sorry for Alice and I thought that I knew the direction the novel was going to take. But then in the second section when we see Alice from her son Tim and his wife Natalya’s point of view, I was like ‘what a witch’. But by the end of the third section when she is with Matt and I begin to understand her more (thanks to Bruno – love him) I realised that her negativity is a product of her husband’s unacceptable behaviour. It was so interesting to view people from different perspectives. I also liked the way in which the bond of family is tested between this family. Tim hates his parents but he still sees them because they are his family and it was quite scary to see how much he accepted just because of familial link. I found that I could relate with this quandary about whether you should cut off your family or not to some extent. This books shows us both sides of this. We have Tim who won’t cut them off and we have Matt who has but neither of them are happy because of it. The material in this book was very thought-provoking and really portrayed how complicated families can be.
The other thing I really liked about this book was how current and modern it was. Firstly, living in Birmingham I found it wonderful reading about places that I knew, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before but it made the whole experience really enjoyable. I think I’m going to try and find more books set in places I know so thanks to the author for that! But it wasn’t just the location that was relatable but there were references to current things like Location Location and the best one was the description of Desperate Housewives. It wasn’t mentioned by name but a Susan ‘the writer and Mike ‘the plumber’ were mentioned and straight away I knew who they were! I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve watched the series seven times from beginning to end… But anyway things like this just enhanced the story and made it more vivid and relevant.
It seems that the cause of the damage to these three people lies with Ken. We see different sides to Ken depending on who is talking and it was really interesting to see that Alice plays down what he has done to them and it is only Matt who is able to voice what happened. Tim and Alice just accept it as the norm to a certain extent. The damage that Ken has done to his family is fully explored and depicted in this book. I don’t want to give too much away because the most interesting part of this book is the analysis of the ripple effect one person’s actions can cause.
Another aspect of this book that I really really liked was the constant debate about money. Money is a key feature in this book. Whether it is Ken who squirrels it away for no reason, or Alice who would like to spend more if she could because of the background she came from, or Tim who can never have enough money and is always looking for the next ‘thing’ he can buy or lastly Matt who rejects the power of money. It is really interesting to see the irony that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can give you a certain amount of power and control. I really enjoyed the way the author used his characters to show the different ways money can shape your life, whether you crave it or reject it. I like to think he used Matt to demonstrate to us all that you don’t need much in life to be happy, just nine cats and a log cabin!this is a really engaging read that I recommend to anyone that likes books that examine family life.