Books: Independent choice: Fictional family life
Fictional family life
Saturday 20 June 1998
Another dysfunctional couple are Eleanor and Clay Mitchell in The Househunter by Henry Sutton (Sceptre, pounds 12.99). Married for 15 years, forty-something, and childless, Eleanor is desperate for motherhood. But her dull, chain- smoking, heavy drinking husband seems to be sterile. Having lost her job, Eleanor begins to look at houses for sale. The novel is structured around the London addresses she visits. Househunting becomes her journey of discovery. Encounters - sexual and otherwise - with estate agents, and discoveries about the absent owners whose houses she views are her staging posts. Sutton has a gazetteer's eye for places and his descriptions of London houses and streets are startlingly accurate. The outcome of The Househunter is not predictable.
In A History of Silence (Macmillan, pounds 16.99), Barbara Neil is more concerned with the relationships between children and parents - or parent substitutes - than in marriage partners. Esther, now quite old, is the mother of sisters Robbie and Laura. Laura has a boy, Will, and eventually four other children - two natural and two step.
Robbie, who narrates this compelling novel, and Laura are inextricably bonded and flawed by shared memories of sexual abuse at the hands of their father and his nasty mistress, "the woman Jane". Neither sister can, in adult life, understand how their mother had insisted that they should spend time in the house of their father, a "healer".
Both women are profoundly damaged. Robbie, a successful physiotherapist, seems unable to form sexual relationships. Laura is a night-club singer. They are as attached to each other as any married couple. Robbie's attempt to escape from Britain and its associations by taking a job in Louisiana eventually leads to Laura's following her. There, Laura makes a stable relationship with a decent lawyer. Then she leaves without a word.
Laura is, in a sense, replicating her sad childhood in the lives of her own brood. This in spite of her passionate love for "her" five children, two already abandoned by their natural mother. Although the pessimistic Larkinian sentiment "They fuck you up, your mum and dad", underpins this beautifully written and disturbing novel, there is a ray of hope for the future at the end.
Life & Style blogs
iPhone 7 (or iPhone 6S) leaked pictures show similarities to older model — but Apple is fixing the biggest issue of all
The face of fertility: why do men find women who are near ovulation more attractive?
'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
Google has set its terrifying, dreaming image robots on the public
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 Amber Roof: Sister of Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof launches fund-raising appeal for wedding and honeymoon
- 3 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 4 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 5 BP hit with record $18.7 billion fine over Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...
£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also include operat...