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 DowlingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved