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The facts of life
Graham Joyce
Adult Fiction JOYCE

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Warm with nostalgia and flecked with the subtle fantasy that seasons nearly all his fiction, Joyce's latest novel (after Smoking Poppy) is an uneven mix of the charming and the self-consciously peculiar. The setting is Coventry, England, in the years after WWII, where the surviving Vine family-mother Martha, her seven grown daughters and their various offspring-are all trying to build lives out of the ruins left by Nazi bombs. The bittersweet events center on young Frank, the illegitimate son of psychologically unstable youngest daughter Cassie, who like his mum has inherited a fey streak that makes him receptive to precognition and restless spirits. As Frank and Cassie bounce from household to household, cared for by different family members, their peregrinations evoke in miniature the British postwar experience, mirrored in the lives of Cassie's siblings: one is married to a man who relives the war through his affair with a dead soldier's wife; another is a politically liberal participant in a comically self-destructing socialist commune. Virtually plotless, the book unfolds as a series of vignettes, interrelated loosely through shared, affectionately realized characters and seriocomic treatments of death and (especially) sexuality. Frank's supernatural experiences, which include frequent sessions with a mysterious figure he refers to cryptically as "The-Man-Behind-The-Glass," are hints that he shares hi relatives' powers. Indeed, the subtlety with which Joyce presents clairvoyant episodes makes them entirely credible in a novel that celebrates the strong bond of family and the deep well of sensitivity on which they all draw. In the end, this is a haunting story about flawed but good-hearted people who bear the hallmarks of eccentricity but also the beneficent aura of human connectedness. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Acclaimed for his dark fantasies (Indigo; The Tooth Fairy), British author Joyce has less success with this historical novel, set during and after the 1940 bombing of Coventry, England. Young Frank Vine is the product of an air-raid fling between Cassie and an American GI. Because Cassie is incapable of caring for him, her mother, Martha, the weary matriarch of a family of seven grown girls, has her other daughters take turns at the task. Martha has the sight; she receives "knocks at the door"-ghosts warning her of the future-a gift that Frank, too, possesses. Cassie is even more prescient, predicting when the Germans will bomb the city by sensing radio signals. Cassie's frantic sexual energy during the Blitz and the vivid description of the Blitz itself are nearly enough to carry the novel. But it bogs down as Frank is shuttled from household to household, not trusted alone with the fey and wayward Cassie. Joyce could have omitted several sisters and side plots to make this a more focused, magical, gripping tale. For larger collections where modern fantasies are appreciated.-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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more titles about

main characters Martha Vine
Practical; mother of seven daughters.

Cassie Vine
Single mother
Martha's youngest daughter; unstable.

Frank Vine
Age: Child
Cassie's son and second child.

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