Ruby Lennox narrates this story of her life and her family. Funny, startling and often sad, she is the child of a woman who doesn’t want kids, and a father who cheats. The book also slips backwards in time to take in the lives of her ancestors and the events that shaped their lives.
The Lennox family lives above a pet shop in York in the 50’s, and Bunty is a very reluctant and bitter mother, though over the course of the book you come to understand her and sympathise with her somewhat, she’s also a hard to love character.
It’s an incredible first novel, and certainly deserves the accolades that it has received. I really liked the little stories of family history that are tucked into this tale, and I liked the way that there are many things that Ruby doesn’t understand since she is young, but that we are privvy to because they are hinted at. Ruby is also often very funny in the way that she tells her stories.
But there was something about this book that really irked me. Not many of the characters are very likable. They all seem pretty awful really. I understand that we are meant to accept that things were the way they were at the time, but the fact is that all the men are the kind of creeps who cheat on their wives, and the wives are all smug, bitter women who marry for the wrong reasons and then blame their husbands for ever after. No one really takes action or control of their lives. Perhaps that’s insightful, but it’s hardly inspiring and in some ways, it made the book feel a little long for me.
Read It If: an entertaining read, one for those of you who love stories about women, English social realism, and dysfunctional family sagas.