Monday, 18 July 2011

A Perfect Life by Raffaella Barker

I read this a couple of weeks ago and here are my thoughts on it...

We all know families like the Stones. You see them on the school run; they're the neighbours in the huge house at the end of the lane, slightly set apart from everyone else. Good looking, plenty of money, four kids. Seemingly perfect, although with their Bunyan-esque names (Angel, husband called Nick and the kids are named after various precious rocks) you can guess there's a morality tale coming. That's the premise of the novel really, a delve under the surace to reveal family secrets, bitterness, addiction and yearnings.

The characters should be detestable but they're absolutely not, not even Nick, the recovering alcoholic, sex-addicted errant husband. I think this is down to the fact that the story is told from varying points of view- Angel's, Nick's and their eldest son Jem's- so we get everyone's perspective. Jem's accounts are in first person too, in all its late-teenage glory, making him by far the most sympathetic and engaging character.

The reader is drawn in quickly because the novel is written wholly in the present tense, no mean feat. I use the present tense quite a bit in my own writing and it makes the action so immediate; there's a real sense of not quite knowing how things are going to unfold, both for the readers and the characters. I couldn't put this book down although it was in a kind of mesmorizing 'train-crash' kind of way rather than a plot-driven thriller and the changeable points of view intrigued me. But you utterly believe in the characters and care about them and you really hope they find their own redemption at the end of it all.

Read this if you're suffering from 'perfect family' envy!

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