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A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy
Original price £7.99
This was yet another of my free Bookcrossing finds. I love this organisation as I have found so many books that I never would have read without finding them through Bookcrossing. The thing is that I can pick up a book that looks interesting and if it proves to be rubbish I have lost nothing and just put it back out there. If I find a good one I can then share it with my friends and enjoy a good book then write a review to earn me a few pennies too.
Maile Meloy is American and lives in California. Here first novel 'Lairs and Saints' was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange prize for fiction and was also chosen by Richard and Judy as their summer read for that year.
The story is set in the USA and begins in 1979. The heroine Abby is staying with her grandparents and has chicken pox so in the heat of summer she is trapped indoors with no friends so is feeling pretty fed up. Abby is the daughter of one of Yvette and teddy's children,the slightly scatty Clarissa. They have an older more sensible and reliabke daughter Margot married with children and also a much younger son called Jamie.
Clarissa , Abby's mother is mid divorce and in order to cope has sent her daughter to stay with her parents so that she has time to herself over in Hawaii.
Abby is miserable until her young uncle Jamie turns up and then she has someone to swim with and enjoy herself and the two become close.
Sadly as well her parent's divorce Abby has then later on to cope with the fact her father is killed in a car crash and her one normal parent is lost to her. She turns to Jamie for support and they become even more close and eventually become lovers. They can't help themselves yet they know it is wrong and from this relationship so many ripples begin and throughout the book we see how the entire family and people beyond are affected by this relationship.
they know what they did is wrong and so separate and try to form other relationships . They seek counselling but this is not the magic answer. Abby writes a book sort of based around their relationship and this has huge repercussions on the family as you might imagine.
I found the characters very real and although I have had nothing quite as eventful happen in my family I can empathise with each of them as they are human. They are all characters that are neither black or white, at time you find you really want something good to happen for one of them and then they do something so stupid or awful that you want to give them a good shake. I do like it when characters are real and neither all good or too bad.
What Jamie and Abby did was morally wrong and incest which is quite taboo in Western society. However it is not a brother and sister nor is it a father and daughter. These are two youngsters who just happen to be uncle and niece and feel very close to each other. It is a grey area and you can't help but feel for them in their predicament. They do manage to form other relationships but always at the back of their minds is their feeling for each other and their constant struggle to fight this.
Incest is a tricky subject but I thought the author handles the whole thing well. She portrayed their struggle and their horror at their situation and also how thi affected so many others in the story.
This was a family story involving a couple of generations and all the ups and downs that they go through, many sparked off by Abby's book which they are never sure if it is true or not.
I did find I was drawn to the stories of some of the characters more than others and each had their part to contribute to the family saga. It was frightening how easily some of the characters fell when faced with a challenge while others seemingly more fragile mentally coped with so much more.
I can't say this was the best book i have ever read but is far from being the worst. I thought it was very well written and had so many elements of human frailty in it. At times I was amused at others quite shocked and then later quite sad. It was quite shocking at times but I did quite enjoy the fact that the characters were sympathetic one minute and totally awful the next. It wasn't a relaxing read because of this but to me it was more real because people do tend to be likeable one minute and then do something annoying the next, that is life and no one is perfect in my view.
I have not read anything else by the author but having read 'A Family Daughter', I would not be averse to reading another book she has written. I didn't find the sex scenes particularly graphic or titillating. This is no 'Shades of Grey', it much more matter of fact and almost passed over really as the book is not about the actual sex scenes but more about the repercussions of the relationship.
To quote the blurb on the back
" An engaging and insightful novel about the joys and complications of modern life.... A delicious read."
"Maile Meloy writes wonderfully well, with an efficiency so lithe it's like watching an athlete." - Guardan
"' A family Daughter' roams engrossingly from California to Paris to Buenos Aires in ways that make it a big book as well as a swift, slender, graceful one." - New York Times
It is an easy read in that it is well written and the story flows easily from character to character and it is easy to see how it all fits together. I liked the fact that it ended somewhat open ended as though there may be a sequel. In fact reading the synopsis of her previous book 'Liars and Saints' i do believe this may be a sequel to that one as the event mentioned in that is also in this book but I am only guessing.
Thank you for reading . This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name
Review of A Family Daughter, a novel by Maile Meloy
I am reviewing the paperback edition of this novel, published by John Murray Publishers (London) Ltd. 325 pages, ISBN 9780719566479, cover price £7.99, genre :- Modern Fiction.
This book was purchased from Poundland so obviously, the price I paid was £1!
Set in America, the story begins in 1979. Abby is 7 years old, she is the youngest member of the Santerre family. She is trapped indoors during a summer heat wave as she has contracted chicken pox. Yvette and Teddy Santerre have three adult children, daughters Margot and Clarissa, and a son Jamie who is the youngest of the siblings. Clarissa is Abby's mother, Clarissa is a bit of a wild card, she is divorcing Abby's father Henry and lives a life of utter turmoil as she lurches from one crisis to another. She has sent Abby to her grandparents for the summer in order to return to Hawaii, which is the only place she says she has ever felt comfortable.
Abby is bored and ill, she is trying her grandparents patience and strength. In desperation, Yvette rings her son Jamie who is training to be a teacher and asks him to come home to help with the little girl. Jamie arrives and a special friendship springs up between uncle and niece.
The plot then continues towards Abby's adulthood. Her bond with her uncle Jamie goes from strength to strength until finally, when Abby is devastated by her father's death it is Jamie who manages to get through to her. The pair are emotionally very close and as a result, they become lovers. This is against all the rules and their actions have repercussions that alter the course of their lives.
As the plot heads towards it's startling finale, the pair find themselves involved in other relationships, yet are still drawn to each other. They find that they are rocking the very foundations of their upbringing and no amount of counselling can stop their mutual attraction. .
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
This is a very strange novel. Of course, incest is a taboo subject and one that it not generally openly discussed in our society. I am not in the least bit prudish or moralistic, but I felt that this author rather 'over egged the pudding'. Had the pair come together just once, regretted their actions, had their counselling and then the story had continued, the novel would have been entertaining and believable. In my opinion, by continuing the incestuous intimate scenes, the novel descended beyond the bounds of good taste. What was basically a family saga of several generations of relatives struggling to come to terms with various dramas, turned into an off putting and slightly stomach churning novel.
The actual construction of the novel was fairly good, although I felt the dialogue was a little 'patchy' in places. The characterisation was reasonably good, the lead character of Abby was well drawn and her fragile mental state was extremely well described. I did not particularly like any of the characters and to be quite honest was bored by some of them, particularly the weak and self centred, Clarissa.
I did not really enjoy this novel, I had not read anything else by the author and after reading 'A Family Daughter', frankly, I would not go out of my way to seek out further Maile Meloy novels. Admittedly this was an impulse buy and having no idea of the author's style, it was a chance as to whether I would enjoy the book. The blurb on the back of the novel did not give a clue regarding the incestuous content or the gratuitous sex scenes, in all fairness, I may still have bought the book even if it had have done so, as I do read a wide range of subjects!
To conclude, I did not like this book and I would not recommend it. I am awarding it a 2* rating, based on the authors skills as a writer, rather than the entertainment value of the novel.
Thank you for reading
©brittle1906 June 2012
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.