Author: Matt Haig, 2010.
Genre: Black Comedy. Horror. YA/Crossover. Vampires. Coming-of-age
Other Details: Paperback. 343 pages.
"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." - teaser for The Radleys.
“Vampire? Such a provocative word, wrapped in too many clichés and girly novels." - Uncle Will - The Radleys
Peter and Helen Radley live with their teenage children, Rowan and Clara, in the quiet North Yorkshire village of Bishopthorpe. He's a GP and she paints. Their lives are settled and a little boring and they are both are trying to put their wild London days behind them and raise their children in ignorance of their true nature. The truth is that the Radleys are vampires, who are living in accordance with The Abstainer's Handbook (quotes from this are interspersed throughout). Given that Clara and Rowan are sickly, pale and 'allergic' to the sun, they are not having quite the experience of the sparkly Cullen kids over in Forks, Oregon.
When Clare is forced to fend off the unwanted advances of a boy who attacks her on the way home from a party, her vampiric nature is triggered and suddenly the family's secret is threatened. Peter turns in desperation to his brother Will, a practising vampire bad boy, to help them. However, with his arrival in town and back in their lives things quickly go from bad to worse.
Despite featuring vampires, this very far from the likes of the Twilight, The Vampire Diaries or all the moody YA vampires found in the paranormal romance section. It reminded me a little of Being Human, BBC 3's wonderful series about the attempts of a vampire, werewolf and ghost to blend into normal society. It also deals with issues such as bullying, addiction, infidelity, coming of age, mid-life crises and the stresses of modern family life, making it an ideal cross-over novel for older teens and adults. It is written in a very tongue-in-cheek style with dollops of pitch-black humour and knowing references to vampire lore, literature and popular culture.
This novel was so much fun and a pure pleasure to read. Just terrific on every level.
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For anyone wondering about Haig's use of the surname made famous by To Kill a Mockingbird he confirmed to Publisher's Weekly that: "Yes, Boo, pale-faced, misunderstood suburban outsider, was definitely my inspiration," The surname also means "of the red meadow," which he felt was a nice vampiric connotation.
The Radleys on Matt Haig's site - contains first few pages excerpt.