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The Addams FamilyThe family is a rich source of material for novelists – the dramas, feuds, bonding, support, recriminations, and downright insanity of families have kept writers in ideas for centuries. Happy families don’t tend to make for good reading: all happy families are alike, and who’d want to be a Walton anyway? Here are a couple of suggested reads which revolve around the ups and downs of family life.


Everything ChangesEverything Changes by Jonathan Tropper is the story of Zack, a thirtysomething who finds life becoming increasingly complicated: unhappily engaged to the ideal woman, secretly in love with the widow of his best friend who died in a car crash, and, along with his brothers and mother, still suffering the fallout from being abandoned twenty years earlier by philandering Norm. Norm’s reappearance on the scene, derelict and Viagra-fuelled, and his (pretty funny!) attempts to patch things up with his family, form the catalyst for Zack to take back control of his life. Lots of great characters,  particularly Norm and housemate Jed. Tropper looks at the complications of family loyalties and the sheer inertia that can take over people when going through tough times in a way that’s both humourous and realistic.


Cold Comfort FarmCold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is a must for anyone with family members given to melodrama and manipulation: a blackly funny parody in which the super-sensible Flora expertly deals with a range of characters all seething with passions, tragedies and egotism, in a way that pokes fun at the ridiculousness of it all. Written as a reaction against the rustic novels of D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, it’s chock-full of eccentric characters, such as doomed Judith, smouldering Seth, and poetic Elfine.  With passages of fabulously purple prose and some laugh-out-loud moments, it’s Wuthering Heights meets The Addams Family.


The Art of Racing in the RainThe art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein is narrated by Enzo, a dog who spends his days glued to the television, has a list of favourite actors (he likes George Clooney ‘because he looks a bit like me round the eyes’) and is an avid fan of motor racing. Enzo’s family – amateur racing driver Denny, Denny’s wife Eve, and their daughter Zoe – have their lives turned upside down when Eve is diagnosed with cancer. While it sounds as if it might be depressing, it’s actually very warm and funny. Enzo as narrator manages to avoid being twee, and instead allows for a kind of naïve, fresh  perspective, while dealing with complicated topics: loss, bereavement, despair, and finding your own path through it all.

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