Tolstoy tells us, in Anna Karenina, that ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ but I’m not sure that he would ever have thought of the ways to be unhappy the family at the centre of this novel have found. And I can’t really tell you much about these ways as they are a major part of the plot – you could still enjoy the book if I told you but you would be losing something in the telling.
What can I tell you? This is a book about families and about learning who you really are. It is about a girl who used to talk all the time and is now very quiet, who used to have two siblings and now seems to be an only child, who was once the subject of scientific papers and now revels in the anonimity of going to University hundreds of miles from her home. Our heroine, Rosemary, is someone who you take into your heart – she is alternately engaging and annoying, obviously clever and socially inept. She starts her story in the middle and we follow her both back into her past and as the tale progresses towards the present day – the secrets of her life are doled out to us piece by piece so that, by the end, a fuller picture emerges. We also, incidentally, discover lots of seemingly unrelated stuff – odd facts and quotes from a variety of disciplines; philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and religion – and meet some fascinating characters. A paranoid building manager (but it turned out they were watching him all along), a self-centred drama queen (who ends up sacrificing her future for someone else’s cause) and a big brother (who turns out to need protecting, mostly from himself).
I hope I haven’t made this book sound too ‘worthy’ or serious. It is contemporary fiction written with a very light touch – there is humour as well as sadness – and I can see me recommending it to a lot of customers.