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June 9, 2014 / ljbradburn-Smith

The Radleys

the rad


It might have been the trickle of blood running down a white fence that caught my eye, or it could just be luck that it was one of the first books I saw as I raced strolled into the library, for the first time in ages, but either way I found myself on the way home, a few weeks ago, excitedly clutching The Radleys, by Matt Haig. The Humans, another of Haig’s books, has been on my “to read” list for ages but for some reason it wasn’t to be found in the library and not even the angry-for-no-reason, power-hungry lovely librarians could help me locate it.

Anyway, with a rare day ahead of me with nothing to do except read to my heart’s content and maybe annoy Ben at some point, I made a den on the floor of the library/spare room/gym and settled down. I might also point out that I had absoltutely no intention of moving for anything, except maybe a really big earthquake.

And so I met the Radleys…

There’s Peter Radley- a frustrated doctor who works in the local surgery and spends his free time playing footsie with his attractive next door neighbour over dinner.

Helen Radley – his uptight wife who tries desperately to ignore her growing boredom and convince herself of her place in Surburbia, by pretending that the wildest thing she has ever done is drink a chai tea latte.

Their daughter, Clara Radley – an animal loving vegetarian with a taste for stupid, ignorant men.

Her brother, Rowan Radley whose day to day life consists mainly of dealing with falling in love, crippling shyness, acne and bullies.

And then there’s Peter’s brother, Will Radley – a law unto himsef. Sexy, cocksure and bohemian. The black sheep of the family who jumps from one cheap thrill to the next and whose arrival threatens to damage the Radleys’ careful constructed existence with his campervan full of dirty secrets.

So all in all your typical repressed, suburban English family. Apart from the fact that they are vampires.

Whilst Peter and Helen fight hard not to let old habits ruin the reputations they have built for themselves, Haig’s two youngest protaganists, Clara and Rowan, are forced to come to terms with what being a vampire means for their social lives. As growing up takes on a whole new meaning and they are faced with temptations they didn’t even know existed suddenly the bad skin isn’t so much of a problem anymore and trying not to eat their friends is.

Matt Haig has a very understated style of writing. Although there were climaxes in his book it felt like a calming read. It flowed and meandered its way from  awkward encounters to hidden secrets and barely contained sexual tension with easy humour and a sympathetic insight into family life behind closed doors.Throughout The Radleys Haig likens the thirst for blood to having an alcohol addiction and parodies classic self help book advice in his Abstainer’s Handbook, the go-to bible for any self-respecting vampire who has chosen brownies over blood.

A humourous story of abstinence, addiction, first love, instinct and family, Haig captures the age-old struggle between being yourself and being what you think other people want you to be. Almost too real to be called a fantasy and too funny to be called a horror, I’m now so convinced that there could be vampires living among us that I might think twice next time I presume it is alcohol that the scary man, who lurks around street corners, is sipping from a paper bag.


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