The Radleys Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Families. Sometimes they're a bloody nightmare....
Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother, Rowan, finally discover why they can't sleep, can't eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can't go outside unless they're smothered in factor 50.
With a visit from their lethally louche uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 45 minutes|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||03 September 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank||
12,250 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
274 in Family Life Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
1,432 in Family Life Fiction (Books)
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‘The Radleys’ reads like twilight fan fiction, or ‘The Lost Boys: the pensioner years’. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief but it has to feel vaguely realistic. Or if completely absurd at least set in a world with a history and rules that one can relate to in some way.
This however felt more like a vague idea the author had, but with no way of communicating without resorting to soap like tropes, predictable character backstories and soppy sentimental story arcs.
To summarise, forget this and jump straight to Haig’s later works as his style has matured so dramatically. I hope more of that work is in his future and not more of this.
I found the book to just flow along easily; it's light but intelligently written, witty and definitely not your run of the mill supernatural vampire book. You could probably even imagine the vampire storyline and the weakness for blood, to be replaced with a more "normal" human weakness or suppression of alcohol/drugs/gambling/sex etc. The chapters are all fairly short, making it perfect for putting down and picking up again a bit later, and I liked how the author gave each chapter a little heading with a nod to what was coming. Sure, it may be another book about vampires, but The Radleys comes with a twist and shakes the whole genre up again.
Having read a couple of excellent books by Matt Haig this was a real disappointment. It brought to mind a conversation with a publisher friend who bemoaned script synopsises that missed out that from page 50 it's all about vampires. This is that book.
What I thought might be a wry, quirky take on middle class northern England becomes a bizarre tale of a vampire family. One minute they're queuing for the bus to Thirsk, the next taking to the skies to drop dead bodies in the Nort Sea. There are vampire adoption units, a secret police anti-vampire unit and bars in Manchester selling vampire blood.
It really doesn't work on so many levels. It's like feasting on Bowie's classic 70s catalogue and then discovering his mid 80s output.
Outwardly the Radleys are an ordinary family (mother, father, son and daughter) living an ordinary life in a small village. Really, however, they are vampires living a life of abstinence and denial although at the start of the book the two children don't know that they are different from normal. When the daughter, Clara, eats a class mate who has been trying to attack her the father, Peter, calls his brother Will to come and help. Will if different from the Radleys - he's a vampire who embraces the lifestyle and is unrepentant about it. Will's coming changes the dynamics of the family, secrets are revealed and they are all faced with new choices.
The vampires in this book don't have many of the traditional issues - for a start, they can breed. They do, however, have the need for blood although they can survive without it. The book presents its characters with this moral dilemma and explores how each of them comes to terms with what they are. It's a world in which vampires are hidden from view although the government knows about them and others suspect.
I really had problems with this book, most especially around the character of Will. I could understand Peter and Helen's desire to fit in and their issues as well as the problems that the children faced but I found Will to be a very unsympathetic and difficult character and, although he represented a different way of living to offer the family as well as significant temptation, I wasn't entirely sure that his character worked well within the story - he seemed too over the top. The middle class lifestyle was well observed especially with the hints of passion and danger underneath. I also liked the extracts from the "Abstainer's Handbook", Overall, however, the story didn't work for me.
Partly it’s a Young Adult coming of age vampire novel. Partly it’s a reflection on middle age and middle-aged ennui. Partly it’s about family and relationships.
The titular Radleys (it’s difficult to imagine this is not some kind of reference to Boo Radley – or perhaps not) are a family living in a Yorkshire village. The father, Peter – a local GP – is married to stay-at-home mother Helen. Their two teenaged children are Clara and Rowan.
They’re all vampires, but Clara and Rowan don’t know this, because Helen and Peter decided, before the children were born (when did vampires become able to breed?) to abstain from ‘normal’ vampire activities and to instead try to blend in, as best as they can, with the human population.
Trouble arises when Clara is the victim of an attempted sexual assault after a party. She attacks and kills the perpetrator. Peter’s brother – who has enjoyed ‘living’ as a ‘proper’ vampire all long – is summoned to help clear up the resultant mess. Things don’t go according to plan, as you might expect.
This book left me feeling rather perplexed. I think Haig has introduced too many new “rules” as far vampire lore is concerned. Or possibly it’s more that these new rules aren’t very interesting. The attraction of vampires is that they are among us but so very different from us. What’s so interesting about vampires trying to be just like us? And when did vampires become able to exist without human blood? And when did they become able to walk about in the daytime? And when did they become visible in mirrors?
The more Haig plays with the rules, the less interesting the vampires become.
Peter’s mid-life crisis was also rather clumsily handled. It seemed more of a cartoon, or sit-com, version of events. I note that Haig was 36 when this book was published, a few years away, perhaps, from his own mid-life crisis. Give him another 15 years and he might be able to write about this subject with a little more authority!
I also made the mistake of reading a US version of the novel. Changes – like chemist to drug-store, and bin-man to garbageman – were irritating, but that’s hardly a fault of the novel or Haig.
I think Haig has tried to bring something new to the YA vampire genre but this just didn’t float my boat. And, yes, that might very well be because it’s been decades since I was a YA!