Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have ;for seventeen years been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives. One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking - and disturbingly satisfying - act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara's trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys' marriage.
The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain - and lose - when we deny our appetites.
Does the supersaturated marketplace really need another vampire novel? Luckily for Matt Haig, only if it’s a particularly good treatment of the subject. Though The Radleys is his first foray into the genre, Haig’s five previous novels have given him ample opportunity to find a strong narrative attitude that is both utterly modern and classically cheeky. Toby Smith’s compelling voice work hangs a hat equally comfortably on both this family of vampires’ numbing suburban assimilation and their ancient philosophical questions.
The story really does an excellent job of blending the pithy vampiric dilemma with everyone’s everyday struggles. Peter and Helen could probably love each other more, if they’d just tell their kids the truth about the Radley family history. Instead, Peter contemplates an affair with the lady next door, but is afraid the woman will end up rather more dead than laid, while Helen does her best to repress the fact that she was once in love with Peter’s brother. Peter’s brother, Byronic poetry professor Will, must of course come to town when Peter’s daughter faces a choice between being harmed and doing harm. She goes with her instincts, and as the only member of the family who still prefers to practice the more traditionally murderous lifestyle, Will’s superior strength and skills put him in a unique position to make the evidence go away. Unfortunately, there are more bodies appearing than disappearing. As the Radleys fight to stay one step ahead of their looming alienation from suburban normalcy, they must make some tough decisions about how best to really preserve their family.
Toby Smith fulfills a variety of narration duties here that make for an exciting listen. He conveys both their boredom with the lifestyle they seek to preserve, and their longing for the lifestyle they gave up long ago. Smith manages to preserve the credibility of teenage angst and trauma without spilling over into the lamentations of overemotional schlock. Of course, a certain level of witty sarcasm and morbid humor is expected in a novel of this genre, as well as a particular amount of stylized violence and gleeful gore. Forgive two poor puns, but Matt Haig gets to the meat of the issues that Toby Smith then narrates in a way that keeps our blood pumping. The Radleys is indeed a refreshing break from the usual insipid vampire fare. Megan Volpert
"Funny, scary and wickedly familiar...Reading The Radleys proved an unpredictable experience, its themes crafted through a pleasurable switch of tones. On the one hand it’s a parochial comedy of manners in a...suburban setting, but it quickly gathers poison and then effortlessly enters the supernatural without ever betraying its worldly concerns.” (Alfonso CuarÓn, director of Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉn, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men)
"The Radleys is, first and foremost, the remarkable story of a family, born of denial and deceit, learning to tell the truth. That the family in question happens to be Undead is secondary, because in Matt Haig’s masterly hands vampirism is much more than blood lust. It is a yearning for love, truth, passion, and authentic connection.” (Allison Burnett, author of Undiscovered Gyrl)
"A sharp, bloody tale of abstinence and indulgence (and trying not to eat the neighbors).” (Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts)
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Blood doesn't satisfy cravings. It magnifies them.
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