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Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hannah

A Game For All The Family

‘A Game For All The Family’ is an intriguing novel. In structure, it is a story within a story and a puzzle within a puzzle.

When Justine Merrison and her family move to Devon, Justine decides that, for reasons that will become apparent later in the story, her main purpose in life will be to do absolutely nothing. A wish that, I have to say, I have every sympathy with.

But it doesn’t turn out that way, because pretty soon it becomes apparent that her daughter Ellen is unhappy. And, with Ellen’s father away on an opera singing assignment, Justine is going to have to do something.

Why has Ellen become so withdrawn? Why is she so unhappy that a fellow pupil has been expelled from school? And why on earth are the school insisting that the pupil concerned never even existed? And what on earth is the story that Ellen is obsessively writing all about?

Justine reads the beginning of the story – a tale of a family called Ingrey, and the murder of Malachy Dodd – and wonders where on earth her daughter got the idea from. The reader then gets to see the rest of the story, and is invited to think about who killed, not Malachy Dodd, but Perrine Ingrey.

The puzzle posed by Ellen’s story runs alongside the puzzles in Justine’s own life. Who is making mysterious threatening phone calls to her? Why did she feel such a strong connection to a house glimpsed from the car that has nothing to do with her?

The novel asks many questions of the reader. What is true? Who can you believe? What is the nature of storytelling, and can we rely on narrators? What sort of behaviour is reasonable and what isn’t? And it is at the intersection of those questions that the essence of the story lies.

As always, the story really makes you think - not just about the outcome, but about the intricate problems of life that it explores. I read this one really quickly, devouring it in huge chunks because I was so intrigued by it.

This book is a great read. It has all the Sophie Hannah trademarks, including a complex plot with an unguessable solution, an accomplished structure and a Twitter spat. It also has some lovely additional touches. The fabulous Olwen – a dog breeder who names all her dogs after lines from Christmas carols.  And the gorgeous Figgy Pudding, a Bedlington terrier who definitely wins my ‘literary dog of the year’ award for 2015.

‘A Game For All The Family’ is a fabulous addition to the collection for established Sophie Hannah fans, but as a standalone would be perfect for new readers as well.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

You can read my reviews of other Sophie Hannah books here.


Captain Black said...

Is it a Waterhouse & Zailer story?

HelenMWalters said...

No, this one isn't. It's a completely standalone story. I believe the next Waterhouse and Zailer is due February 2016. It's called The Narrow Bed. can't wait!