Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not Your Maycomb's Radleys...Blog Tour!

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If you were thinking Harper Lee, you'd best think again.

Yes, their surname was inspired by Boo, Nathan, and fam (at least according to a press interview), and they're also the somewhat "other" oft-gossiped-over neighbors, but that's about all that connects them to To Kill A Mockingbird.  These are other Radleys altogether.  They live in a sleepy little English village and try quite hard to abstain.  They do not succeed.

You see, they're vampires, and they've moved from London to kick the blood habit and raise a couple of lovely - if anemic - kids.  Not surprisingly, since Helen and Peter have not told their teenage children about their unusual "inheritance", when a thuggish classmate tries to rape young Clara, her violent struggle unleashes killer instincts, setting in motion a veritable bloodbath accompanied by the return of their uber-hedonistic and ultra-vampirish Uncle Will. 

In the end, it's not simply a paranormal adventure, but also a story about the various shades of love and desire and obsession and addiction, and about the complexity and power of familial relationships.

My response:  I held high hopes for The Radleys, having admired Matt Haig's earlier novel, The Dead Fathers Club.  Although The Radleys wasn't quite as perfect a fit for my literary background as TDFC (I'm an avid Bard-o-phile but an utterly naive unblood when it comes to 'vampire lit.'), I did enjoy the complexity of the characters, the gentle satire of suburbia, and all the clever vampire-related motifs and metaphors.  I felt particular compassion for young Rowan's awkwardness and unflagging decency and for Clara's reaction to the power that shifts her from nondescript sideliner to pretty 'popular girl'.  In fact, it was the teens' development as they faced the challenges of discovering an utterly unexpected and decidedly dicey new aspect of their identities that most engaged me throughout this novel.

Although I've only had brief brushes with recent vampire-related books, (Twilight, Beautiful Creatures) I'd wager that this would be a cut well above your general vamp-lit writing-wise, so if that's your genre, definitely give this one a go.  I personally don't see it as a YA book so much as an adult read that some sophisticated teens could appreciate, but it certainly offers far more complexity and - dare I say - depth than either of the two titles I mentioned above.  (Then again, Life of Pi sits in the children's section of my local bookstore, so what do I know?)  Plus: plenty of plot twists, violence, passion, and intensity too, so if those intrigue you, reading The Radleys may be right up your (cold, dark) alley. 

Want additional summary or alternate perspectives?  Jump to this Goodreads The Radleys summary, then come on back.

Ponderable Quotes for Your Consideration:
Will: "This is the whole stupid thing about all these unblood relationships.  They depend on people's staying the same, standing in the same spot they were in over a decade ago, when they first met.  Surely the reality is that connections between people aren't permanent but fleeting and random, like a solar eclipse or clouds meeting in the sky.  They exist in a constantly moving universe full of constantly moving objects." (266)

Rowan (brother): "It felt strangely grown-up too, as though that's what being an adult was - knowing which secrets needed keeping.  And which lies will save the ones you love." (355)

From the fictive Abstainer's Handbook, pages of which appear at irregular intervals to highlight thematic shifts or to foreshadow events within the primary plot line and offer satirical "twelve-step"-ish advice comprised - in part - of bromides (such as):  "If blood is the answer, you're asking the wrong questions." 

1.  Get to know my neighbors. (I do know many of them, but not as well as apparently I should.  No idea whether/not they are actually vampires, werewolves, aliens, etc., for example.)  Actually, there's a house behind us that our friends call "The Titanic" because it was built so close to our lot line that it looks as though a mammoth cruise ship weighed anchor in our back yard.  Scary-loud parties w/hysterical women screaming and what might have been gunshots accompanied the Titanic's "christening", and we were so unnerved that we haven't properly introduced ourselves yet.  Clearly, it's time to whip up a batch of brownies and bravely step up onto their porch. Or maybe I'll tie a note to the end of a fishing pole and dangle it over the fence instead.  (I'm definitely not about to go creeping around in their collard patch, though...)

2.  Abstain.  The metaphor of blood as wine/drug ran a red river through this novel, and the challenge of fighting addiction was a central struggle here.  So, I'll task myself with a little experiment in the name of cultivating empathy:  I'll lay off all beer and wine and sweets for at least a month, just to see if I experience any pangs of longing or remorse when I withdraw from our culture's more typical food-related vices. And I think I'll use whatever money I save to buy more organic, local food.  (See blog posts about The Compassionate Instinct, including "Pollan-anna" and "Fail".)  How crazy-virtuous of me.  I'll be insufferable, no doubt, for the entire seven hours I can keep away from the swank Christopher Elbow Artisanal    Chocolates on the kitchen counter. (Curse/bless my tasteful brother's holiday cheer...)

Until next time, MFB sans blood and Boo,

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