No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118
essentialsaltes

The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce

The Facts of Life is an interesting combination of parts. Part historical fiction set in and around wartime Coventry and the Coventry Blitz. Part family drama in an unusual family led by a matriarch with seven daughters, the seventh of whom has a son who serves as a focal point of much of the story. Part urban fantasy, since the matriarch, the seventh daughter and her son are all a bit fey (though the fantasy elements are relatively minor, but effective). The different parts meld pretty seamlessly, though usually the emphasis falls more heavily on one or the other. Most of the narrative follows young Frank as he goes to live with his various aunts (as his mother is a bit too scattered to be a proper guardian). The aunts offer quite a variety, from the spinster spiritualists (naturally, they have no 'power' at all) to the Oxford political radical and free-love experimentalist.
I found the first third really surprisingly absorbing; maybe it's unfair to say surprising, but it's primarily a family nattering at each other; however, Joyce does fine work with vivid well-drawn characters. The middle third is also entertaining as Frank gets passed around to the various aunts, seeing insights into different lives, with episodes that range from humorous to creepy. I think the book's conclusion is not as strong, but still enjoyable overall.
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