Family dysfunction and multiple life failures make great themes for a novel, especially when written by a writer such as Ian Wedde.
There is nothing dull or boring here, the writing is engaging, as are the characters: you may not like all of them, but you will find each one has emotional resonance. As a reader, I have often enjoyed books where all I wanted to do with the odd character was strangle them.
Martin and Agnes Klepka are raising a family of three until Martin, a refugee from Nazism who brought with him Modernist Architecture and real coffee suffers an early age heart attack. Our book begins many years down the track with his adult children, who between them are struggling to cope with a bundle of woes: divorce, disgrace, job dissatisfaction, a failing business venture, an alcoholic husband, gambling, even sex and meth addictions.
Martin, while a talented man, was overbearing and ruled the roost with a rather harsh hand. Never particularly warm to Agnes, he had strong opinions about each of his children and he stamped the imprint of these opinions on each with ultimately hellish consequences; Sandy was disliked by his father, Veronica bored her father and Mick – who was given the poisoned chalice of being Daddy’s favourite – is the one with the multiple addictions.
There is a richness and depth to this book in its explorations of the Klepka children’s struggles, an understanding of how the actions of the adult can so affect a child and how intuitive children are with regards adults’ feelings about them. It explores the whole question of expectations that are placed on a child right from birth for his/her futures and how searingly wrong a life under a weight of expectation can turn out even when the protagonist parent is dead.
This was an engrossing read. I really enjoy this type of book: it would make a fantastic book club read. There is just so much to discuss and this book is more than equal to the American books that are such a book club staple. I will certainly have my book club read it, and I have the person who is leading at our next book club evening reading it first and coming up with two or three questions to kick things off.
Reviewed by Marion Dreadon
by Ian Wedde
Published by VUP