Did You Ever Have a Family
By Bill Clegg
On the morning of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s house goes up in flames, destroying her entire family – her present, her past and her future. June finds herself in a motel room by the ocean, hundreds of miles from her Connecticut home, held captive by memories and the mistakes she has made with her only child, Lolly, and her partner, Luke.Tweet
I looked forward to reading this novel having read glowing reviews. Sadly I was disappointed and underwhelmed by the story and writing style. I found it laboured and confusing in the switching between 1st and 3rd person depending on the character and also in the frequent switching between the past and present. I found this distracting resulting in a disjointed read. The story was depressing with little humour to relieve the relentless sadness. Also I thought the geographical locations were unclear.
Gosh, this is a powerful novel.
It is a compelling account of the aftermath of a fire which destroys June’s daughter, future son-in-law, ex-husband and current partner in one fell swoop, all on the eve of her daughter’s wedding.
It tackles many big issues in a compelling and sensitive way. It is primarily about loss and bereavement and, although I sincerely hope that nobody reading this can really know what it must be like to be in June’s shoes, the way she behaves just feels “right”. Many other issues are also dealt with including family relationships, teenage angst, guilt and so much more, all with the same sensitivity and perception.
However, there are many more people who are affected by this tragedy than just June and this is where the genius of the author really comes to light. He allows everybody involved to have their say, each gradually revealing more and more about the events leading up to that fateful day and also the ways in which they have coped afterwards. After almost every narrative you are in a position to re-evaluate the events of that night in the light of the new information which has been revealed by the last character to have their say.
My only negative comment (and I feel churlish even mentioning it given the impact of the book as a whole) is that there were a number of points in the first half of the book where I was having trouble keeping track of who was who. Needless to say, this all sorts itself out as you get to know the characters better but it is a little distracting early on.
The novel is utterly brilliant and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It is not only extremely well written, but is also cleverly constructed, gripping, sad and also (you’ll be glad to hear) redemptive.
This book tells the story of June Reid and her family and is centred in a small town somewhere in America. I didn't enjoy this book at all, I found it morbid, depressing and very dull. I found the multi voice narrative quite annoying and it seemed to me that in reality the author had plenty of ideas for short stories and just put them together in this book and called it a novel.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone and was glad when I reached the end.
A tale of a tapestry of interwoven lives, that starts with a house fire. Ranging opinions from 2/5 to 5/5 stars. Those giving 2/5 commented that some sort of family tree containing all the characters would have been helpful.