Almost exactly two years after reading and love Matt Haig’s The Humans, I have finally read The Radleys!
The Radleys is the story of a typical middle class family living in a small village in England. They have the right, unobtrusive cars, live in a moderately sized detached home, have Sunday roasts, are a perfectly neutral part of the community.
And they are vampires.
Parents Peter and Helen made the decision not to tell their children, Rowan and Clara, that they are vampires. Peter was born a vampire and turned Helen years ago but they decided together that they would live life as abstainers; they would not kill to satisfy their need for blood. They eat their meat as raw as possible, avoid the sun where they can and try to keep busy to distract themselves from their baser instincts.
But then Clara does something terrible and their perfectly neutral life starts to unravel.
The genius of Matt Haig is that he’s able to tell a story of otherness, of difference, and make it more fun and introspective than normal. Rowan and Clara don’t fit in at school – they are both plagued by illnesses that are caused by the abstainer lifestyle. They are marked out as different by their peers and, Rowan especially is teased ruthlessly because of it.
Once all of the Radleys accept their difference, once they embrace who they are and revel in their otherness, that’s when they find their strength. I love that Haig’s message always seems to be “embrace your difference.”
The vampire angle is really clever because without it this is just another book about people desperately dissatisfied with their lives. Reading what some people have said about it on Goodreads, there are those that were disappointed that certain elements of the plot were so easy to pick out. But the mystery portion of this book isn’t the point. It’s a nice little bonus but it’s not the main focus.
And as ever, a plug for Matt Haig’s twitter: in these times of madness, his is a voice of reason and empathy.
If you need an extra shove to read The Radleys, it’s just come out in a lovely new paperback version.