My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A whole family in lockdown over Christmas? By choice? It may sound like a crazy setting for a story, (because we all know what families are like at Christmas, right?) but the characters themselves make for a compelling read.
Each of them is selfish in their own way – the snobbish food critic father who thinks nothing of the restaurants he destroys in his column; the shallow younger daughter who thinks only of herself and her vision of a perfect life; the self-martyred mother and her self-martyred older daughter, both of them expecting everyone else’s undying gratitude for their choices. And all of them communicate poorly with each other, resulting in secrets.
It’s inevitable that something has to give. And it does: in a kind of coming-of-age (albeit late) and mid-life-crisis combination that’s triggered when visitors arrive (they walk right past the innocuous sign that merely says ‘Please leave all deliveries here, as we are unable to sign’) and are forced to join them in quarantine.
The story is told in alternating third person across about half a dozen characters, so it’s not a relaxing read (the constant perspective changes require too much attention). I found it best to read a chapter or two then put it down for later or I’d forget whose point of view I was reading and come to the wrong conclusions.
There’s also an unfortunate mistake that destroys a pivotal part and broke the implicit trust between book and reader: the text says three people walk into the kitchen for The Discussion we’ve been eagerly anticipating but the next change of perspective only features two of the three characters, discussing the third like she’s not there. It sounds small, but it was confusing enough to pull me out right of the story at the worst possible time. Something went wrong off stage and we only find this out for sure two chapters later.
But I loved that I didn’t see the end coming – it was well concealed and had me kicking myself for not noticing – and the epilogue is the most moving chapter of the book: so short, sweet, and perfect. But don’t jump to it – it will be meaningless and spoil absolutely everything!
All in all, a very good read and a lovely insight into why people do what they do.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.