Foolish Mortals, By Jennifer Johnston

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The Independent Culture

When Henry O'Connor returns to consciouness after a car crash that killed his wife, he has amnesia. His ex-wife, daughter and geriatric mother attempt to bring him back up to speed. As the title suggests, nothing is as it seems, and Johnston's elliptical narrative soon leaves the reader as confused as poor old Henry. In a novel of cross-dressing twins, four cases of hidden sexual identity, and an alcoholic matriarch, life in this Anglo-Irish family is as complicated as it gets. When the clan gathers for Christmas, it's clear that some disastrous denoument is in store. Despite the potty plot, Johnston's writing still weaves its genteel charm – with everyone referring to each other as "dear heart" and "old pet".

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