Out now from Canongate – a Specsavers TV Book Club 2011 Summer Read.
Never have I found the old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ more true than in the case of Matt Haig’s The Radleys. As a test to this fact, the other evening I asked Mrs W what she thought the book I was reading might be like or might be about – this was greeted by the simple comment that she expected it was a boring book. I think she was then as surprised as I was when I told her it was a tale of a family of vampires and was packed with action.
One of this year’s Summer Reads selection by TV Book Club, I was keen to get this one read early as I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to watch the recording of the show in which this book is discussed later this week.
It was nothing like I’d expected – and all in a good way.
The Radleys have a dark secret – that they are vampires – but they’re trying to keep that secret from their children as long as possible and go about their suburban lives as best they can, working and living by the rules as laid out in ‘The Abstainer’s Handbook (second edition)’ – a tome which is quoted in sections throughout the novel.
But, when daughter Clara is attacked one night she begins to discover in a very bad way just what she might be – she’d always wondered why the family had such high factor sun cream and had trouble sleeping.
Uncle Will arrives in town and sets up camp in his VW Campervan on the street opposite the Radley’s residence and Uncle Will seems to have even darker secrets than the fact he too is a blood-sucker.
The novel is peppered with really nice touches throughout, such as the fact that many famous people including Jimi Hendrix were apparently vampires and the club The VIB Room, where goths hang out to listen to Nick Cave and watch old black and white German horror movies.
There’s also a special police department that knows of and deals with vampire crime but they in turn have to deal with The Sheridan Society (named after the author Sheridan Le Fanu) who are an organisation who support vampires. And I loved the fact that the vampires can find each other and seek out fresh blood online via ‘Neckbook’.
This is an everyday suburban tale with added bite. It put me in mind of the movie Meet the Applegates (where a family of aliens are trying to blend in with the neighbours).
A very refreshing take on such a popular genre – but, fortunately, this isn’t the shiny vampires of certain teen romance books.
An entertaining and pleasant (if that word can be used in the context of a book filled with throats being ripped) surprise and I was very pleased to read that it’s getting the cinematic treatment by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men).