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Saturday 15 December 2012

Keep it in the Family by Laurent Saletto


A bomb fuse in a Christmas pudding: makes for a promising novel, doesn't it?  Fortunately, the tale lives up to the promise.

There’s nothing like a dysfunctional family to make you realise how wonderfully normal your own is, despite your misgivings!  And the Johnson family is as dysfunctional as it gets: three brothers with three very different wives, an ex-wife, an assortment of children and grandchildren, a stepmother and a stepsister.  Doesn’t sound very dysfunctional, does it?  But stepmother Mimi has Alzheimer’s,  wife Jill is a first-class bitch, ex-wife Sandra is too tolerant for her own good, the children vary from uncaring to practically disowning.  And then there’s the lovely Emma, wife of George, together a happy, generous couple who want to make Christmas a little bit different and enjoyable for everyone by renting a big old house to accommodate the whole of the clan.

It sounds good on paper.  But the Johnson family under one roof is not a good idea.  There are secrets, hidden agendas, and resentments.  Can this have a good ending?

The characters in this were very well conceived, and I found myself being drawn in to each of their lives, whether it was a happy one, a disenchanted one, or a resigned one.  My favourite had to be Mimi, whose condition enabled her to be able to say what she wanted, when she wanted, without fear of being reprimanded.  She had some wonderful one-liners.  The characters were so well portrayed, I almost hate to wonder if the author based them on real people! And you do care for them all, even the less likeable ones...or at least you are compelled to find out how they fare.

This is light-hearted and humorous, but it's also a very careful study of manners.  I really enjoyed it.

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