The Facts of Life: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jun 17 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Warm with nostalgia and flecked with the subtle fantasy that seasons nearly all his fiction, Joyce's latest novel (after Smoking Poppy) is an uneven mix of the charming and the self-consciously peculiar. The setting is Coventry, England, in the years after WWII, where the surviving Vine family-mother Martha, her seven grown daughters and their various offspring-are all trying to build lives out of the ruins left by Nazi bombs. The bittersweet events center on young Frank, the illegitimate son of psychologically unstable youngest daughter Cassie, who like his mum has inherited a fey streak that makes him receptive to precognition and restless spirits. As Frank and Cassie bounce from household to household, cared for by different family members, their peregrinations evoke in miniature the British postwar experience, mirrored in the lives of Cassie's siblings: one is married to a man who relives the war through his affair with a dead soldier's wife; another is a politically liberal participant in a comically self-destructing socialist commune. Virtually plotless, the book unfolds as a series of vignettes, interrelated loosely through shared, affectionately realized characters and seriocomic treatments of death and (especially) sexuality. Frank's supernatural experiences, which include frequent sessions with a mysterious figure he refers to cryptically as "The-Man-Behind-The-Glass," are hints that he shares hi relatives' powers. Indeed, the subtlety with which Joyce presents clairvoyant episodes makes them entirely credible in a novel that celebrates the strong bond of family and the deep well of sensitivity on which they all draw. In the end, this is a haunting story about flawed but good-hearted people who bear the hallmarks of eccentricity but also the beneficent aura of human connectedness.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In this moving novel, Joyce traces the boyhood of Frank Vine, born into a loving and ramshackle family in the English countryside during World War II. The product of a brief liaison between an American GI and a local woman, Frank is marked with an extrasensory gift that he shares with his matriarchal grandmother and his emotionally unstable mother. Shortly after his birth, Frank's mother is deemed unfit to care for him, so his grandmother makes the executive decision that his care will be divided among his six aunts, each highly unconventional in her own right. During the next 10 years, Frank makes his home at a farm, a commune, and a makeshift mortuary, slowly finding his place in his eccentric but loving family. Joyce's emotional tale skirts sentimentality by presenting the family warts and all: each of the sisters is a complex and contradictory figure, and Joyce fully examines the consequences of the small feuds and squabbles that characterize a close-knit family. A beautifully written tale that entwines domestic drama with magic realism. Brendan Dowling
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Joyce's supernatural thrillers with exotic settings(such as Smoking Poppy, Indigo and Requiem)are among the best of their kind, but he is even better at coming of age stories set in working class Britain, such as The Tooth Fairy and this book. The Facts of Life reminded me more of magic realists Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabelle Allende than it did of "genre" fantasy or horror.
I can't think of any contemporary novelists whose work I enjoy more than Joyce. I can't wait for the next one.
Though her siblings think Cassie is mentally unhinged and at times have her committed, they also rotate who takes her and especially Frank, based on General Martha's orders that no one disobeys. Thus, the wandering Frank grows up in a vast assortment of households that range the gamut of the 1950s so that he learns a great deal about the world around him through his not so stable aunts as the people of the Coventry area try differing means to recover and heal from the intensity of Hitler.
This is a deep look at the varying ways that the battered and tired people of Coventry recover from World War II. Through Frank's wanderings between his relatives, the audience obtains an incredible picture of the heart and soul of a bone weary England struggling to recuperate on individual levels. Though more a series of interrelated shorts as seen through Frank's observations than a novel, the theme of Graham Joyce's deep tale is that THE FACTS OF LIFE are humanity can face its darkest moment and its aftermath yet confidently start over.
Most recent customer reviews
A psychic matriarch, seven daughters and one magical boy hold center stage in Graham Joyce's latest novel, The Facts of Life, a work situated comfortably somewhere between the best... Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2003
Joyce (Graham Joyce) is one of my favorite authors. I started with The Dark Sister, then I inhaled The Tooth Fairy, and quickly read everything else. Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2003