Abby Whitshank has been caring for her family her whole life. They live in her husband’s dream house. Her son is usually absent, never explains anything about his life and annoys his sisters. Her husband loves the house his father built for someone else then moved into. His mother wanted a blue swing seat. Family stuff happens.
This book is a bit of a haze as I read it a while ago (sorry) but you can read a more accurate summary elsewhere if that’s what you’re looking for! So, this book is all nominated and recommended and stuff; Man Booker, Bailey’s prize, Richard and Judy. And it’s pretty literary I guess; a clever meander through a family’s history, private stories, philosophies and tragedies. Ultimately, though, I don’t think I’d read it again.
This family saga spans four generations of Whitshanks; telling the story piecemeal and allowing us to know them gradually, allowing things to gradually fall into place. This was pretty interesting, and only rarely confusing. A lot of the information about the past was told towards the end; changing everything you knew about certain characters. This was interesting, and occasionally heart-breaking, but ultimately created a gradual mosaic of a family.
And the characterisation was pretty superb. Viewing the differences and similarities between characters was interesting, as was working out what effect they have on one another and their interactions. They grew and changed convincingly, and it was refreshing to focus on family relationships.
The family had a good share of secrets and mysteries and stories too. Each person that we focussed on had scandal or drama or tragedy to share; misunderstandings and difficulties etc.
Perhaps what I found difficult was actually caring enough about the family to actually want to know all this stuff. The Whitshanks think they’re special – and perhaps every family does – but from the outside, really, I don’t care. I came to the end of the book just kind of thinking, oh. Well. That’s that then. So though it was pretty clever, I’m just not sure I care.