New Review: The Radleys by Matt Haig
If you’re still waiting for Edward Cullen to grow up, you need to read The Radleys says Catherine Brett.
Matt Haig, a former University of Leeds student, somehow manages to twist the vampire legend into a modern story with a gritty edge in this surprising gem of a book. The Radleys are a normal family of four, living in surburbia and struggling with the usual minefields of dull, everyday life: nosy neighbours, middle age and teen anxiety. Until, their daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party that is, and her parents have to reveal the secret to their seemingly boring lives – the Radley family are vampires, and whilst they attempt to resist their cravings for blood, they could snap at any time.
Vampirism is presented as a “blood addiction” which sparks an inevitable association with bloodlust and sex; indeed, Haig’s characters do not let you go. They brim with personality and sensual vibrancy. Even the “lethally louche”, bad Uncle Will, despite his murderous tendencies manages to keep you entranced. Bite-sized chapters and a switch of narrators keeps the pace and Haig pokes fun at both old and young with amusing digs at the teenager characters on ‘Neckbook’ and the parents insisting on radio 4 over breakfast.
Think you’ve heard it all before? Well you might just be wrong. Haig takes the now clichéd ‘good’ vampire and adds an entirely new level – a level of British repression which transforms the tale into an often laugh-out-loud commentary on British society: “we’re British, repression is in our blood” he writes.
Twi-hards might not be convinced (there are, after all, no topless werewolves) but if you want vampires with a bit more bite, The Radleys is the novel for you.
The Radleys is available now from Canongate Books.