There’s no getting around it: there are an awful lot of vampire books out there, especially ones that are aimed at a younger audience (though I’m not entirely sure this one is). So in my view, it takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to crank out another one. I mean, can The Radleys possibly offer anything new?
Okay, so what have we got? The Radleys are your fairly typical family living the suburban village dream. The parents are sick of each other and their teenage children are sick of their parents. On top of this, there’s the added complication that the parents, Peter and Helen, are “abstaining” vampires hiding out in rural England. This less-than-idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when their daughter Clara comes of age and accidentally kills a boy from her school.
Well, I’ve seen it, and to be honest, I’m not really sure what all the bad-mouthing was about. I thought it was great! Okay, so it’s not the Avengers: Endgame, but it was still entertaining, surprisingly deep, and the plot managed to hold itself together.
And of course, it had that secret sauce that Marvel Studios likes to stir into everything it does: the movie didn’t take itself as seriously as some of the people who reviewed it.
I think this one definitely falls under the “rare treat” category: elegantly written in a light, poetic style that isn’t too overbearing, painstakingly researched, and carrying a sense of suspense throughout the piece that’s cleverly sustained even during the quieter moments. It’s one of those rare literary novels you’ll blast through in a couple of days, but even so, the author manages to whisk us around a good number of the social, environmental and race issues affecting the Caribbean.
And on top of this, we have the sudden appearance of an ancient mermaid who brings beauty and her curse to Black Conch.
The characters are well-drawn and believable, even the mermaid, who has to deal with the practical aspects of suddenly finding herself trapped in land (rediscovering her legs for a start). What I liked about the book is that it’s a classic journey piece: everyone starts somewhere, everyone has to grow, and everyone discovers a truth – whether they want to or not.
The only real problem I had was that the story ended rather abruptly, with one or two threads left dangling. I get that the outcomes had been explained along the way through songs, poetry and journal entries, but I still felt that the book sort of just stopped.
But since a good book is more than just the end, I can’t say it ruined my enjoyment – and this is one hell of a good book.