The Radleys: A Novel

By Matt Haig
Publisher:Free Press, (12/28/2010)

Average Rating:
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3.20 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)

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Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking—and disturbingly satisfying—act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain—and lose—when we deny our appetites.

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Steph's thoughts on "The Radleys: A Novel"
updated on:2/14/2011

Like other reviewers, I was pleasantly surprised by The Radleys.  Nothing against vampires, but I'm really more of a zombie person.  I'm not saying I've been bitten and have succumbed to the current vampire fervor, but  then again, I wouldn't really call this a "vampire book".  The book for me was really about a family dealing with individual and collective struggles who happened to be vampires.  And yes, that was a MAJOR factor in those struggles, but the most touching and memorable aspects of the the book were the human elements - the longing for acceptance and the pain of ridicule and rejection, the loss of connection between a husband and wife - these are what grabbed and held my attention.  And like vampires themselves are noted to be, there is something irrisistable about this book.  I found myself eagerly anticipating reading it each day. Don't be misled by my earlier reference to the elements of conflict and turmoil.  The author, Matt Haig, effectively applied humor and wit.  This is simply a beautifully written, captivating, and thoroughly enjoyable book whether you are a vampire, a fan of vampires, or someone or something else.

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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Radleys: A Novel"
updated on:2/13/2011

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Nick's thoughts on "The Radleys: A Novel"
updated on:2/2/2011

I know vampires are all the rage these days and there are lots of people who can't get enough vampire stories. I am not one of those people. Never been a fan of the vampire genre. In fact, the only piece of vampire entertainment I really like is the original Bela Lugosi "Dracula" movie. That being said, I enjoyed "The Radleys" much more than I was expecting to. It is a pretty fresh take on a mythology that has been beaten to death over the years. The characters are well-rounded and real. Particularly with Clara and Rowan, you could really feel the struggle they felt between being good and being powerful. (Tough choice for a teenager, especially.) At points I felt Peter was a somewhat unfinished character and there were some odd strokes here and there. I thought the running gag of vampire art and movies for "Smokey and the Vampire" and Miles Davis' vampires only album "Kind of Red" (as a jazz fan I found that one particularly groan-worthy) was rather dopey and unnecessary. But in general, I thought "The Radleys" was inventive, fresh and fun. It's a pretty quick read and worth a look.

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Radleys: A Novel"
updated on:2/1/2011

Vampires again. Suburban, British vampires. Given the vast quantity of vampire lit and entertainment that already envelops us, it takes something truly innovative to contribute a fresh idea to the mix.  The Radleys doesn’t quite get there, but it is still an entertaining read. The point, after all, of any vampire book isn’t really the vampire. It’s what the vampire reflects back to us about our humanity. Self-acceptance and the meaning of family are the lessons offered here. Sounds a little corny, but fast-paced writing, good humor (vegan vampire), and just the proper level of gruesomeness set the right tone for these vampires. 

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Radleys: A Novel"
updated on:1/31/2011

I absolutely devoured this book! It was the bit of light fun that I did not know I was looking for. I honestly was not expecting to like this one bit from the description… but I guess you can't judge a book by its description… just like you can't judge the suburbanite sickly Radleys by their appearances. Underneath lies unspeakable (and speakable) passions & power repressed. Powers and passions that may not be that horrible if managed correctly… but "managed" to "out of control" can be a slippery slope, so is it better to deny and resist it all? Here you get to explore all the angles from vamps of every thought pattern trying to wrestle with their impulses and their consciouses. Cleverly written with an incredibly fast pace, this book had me not wanting to put it down. 

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"The Radleys: A Novel"
By Matt Haig

Average Rating:
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3.20 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
1. In the opening lines the author describes the Radley household as one that "you would observe . . . and think that this is the property of perfectly normal human beings who pose no threat to the outside world. If you let yourself think this, you would be wrong" (p. 6). How "normal" are the Radleys? Despite their vampire background, do they have the same struggles as every other "normal" family?

2. What is The Abstainer's Handbook? What do Peter and Will each think about it? Why do you think the author chose to interject various quotes from The Abstainer's Handbook throughout the course of the novel? 

3. On the surface, Rowan and Clara Radley seem to suffer from the same problems of every adolescent: bullies, schoolwork, popularity, etc. How are their adolescent issues magnified by the fact that they are vampires? Does life get easier or harder once they find out their family secret? 

4. What causes Helen to realize that their "nurture over nature" parenting lifestyle has failed? Do you believe that an incident like Clara's was bound to happen sooner or later?

5. After Clara's incident each member of the Radley family struggles with the temptation to indulge in their thirst for blood. Discuss how each family member responds to the temptation. Whose response shocked you the most and why? 

6. When we first meet Uncle Will he seems to be the complete opposite of his brother Peter. As the novel progresses, we discover they are more alike than we think they are. How so? What caused the rift between them? What are Will's arguments against an "unblood" lifestyle? What happens to Will over the course of his visit to the Radley household? 

7. All of the main characters in The Radleys struggle with their desires. The Abstainer's Handbook states: "We have to learn that the things we desire are very often the things which could lead to our own self-destruction." (p. 88) Discuss this quotation with respect to Will, Peter, Helen, and Jared.

8. Clara argues, "Everyone represses everything." (p. 287) Do you believe this to be true? Is The Radleys an argument for denying or embracing who you really are? 

9. The Unnamed Predator Unit hunts vampires but operates under the logic that by "granting immunity to some of the most depraved [vampires], they were able to exert an influence on them and curb some of their activities." (p. 165)Do you agree with this mentality? Why do you think Will is removed from their "immunity" list? Do you think the "new" Radleys have anything to worry about from the UPU? 

10. Near the end of The Radleys there is an excerpt from The Abstainer's Handbook that reads "If you weaken, if you choose pleasure over principle . . . then you will never be able to know tomorrow . . . is it really worth rolling the dice?"(p. 351) How do you think the Radley family would answer? How would you answer? 

11. The Radleys seem like a perfectly normal family except for the fact that they are vampires. How are the problems they face similar to or different from that of any other normal family? How many of their problems do you think are actually rooted in them being vampires?

12. Do you think their vampirism functions as a metaphor for something else? If so, what could their being vampires represent?

13. What do you think of the ending? How has embracing their true natures enabled the Radleys to live more fully? How does it affect other people in their lives?

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This witty vampire novel from British author Haig (The Possession of Mr. Cave) provides what jaded fans of the Twilight series need, not True Blood exactly, but some fresh blood in the form of a true blue family. Dr. Peter Radley and his wife, Helen, have fled wild London for the village of Bishopthorpe, where they live an outwardly ordinary life. The Radleys, who follow the rules of The Abstainer's Handbook (e.g., "Be proud to act like a normal human being"), haven't told their 15-year-old vegan daughter, Clara, and 17-year-old son, Rowan, who's troubled by nightmares, that they're really vampires. A crisis occurs when a drunken classmate of Clara's, Stuart Harper, attacks her on her way home from a party and inadvertently awakens the girl's blood thirst. Peter's call for help to his brother, Will, a practicing vampire, leads to scary consequences. The likable Clara and Rowan will appeal to both adult and teen readers. (Dec.) (c) 
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The Radleys—Peter, Helen, and their two teenagers, Clara and Rowan—live outwardly in domestic bliss, but it comes at a price: Peter and Helen are abstainers, vampires who view blood drinking as an addiction, and keeping up the facade has strained their marriage. They’ve kept the truth from their children, but this backfires when Clara’s vegan diet (dangerous for abstainers, who need meat) causes uncontrollable blood lust, culminating in her ripping a boy to shreds. Enter Uncle Will, an unrepentant vampire, whose subtle and dangerous charm brings even more trouble. This is a dark domestic drama about a loving but dysfunctional family that just happens to be vampires, though delicious moments of gore maintain its horror connection. Excerpts from The Abstainer’s Handbook, which the Radley’s rigidly follow, cleverly mimic self-help manuals, and Haig’s sly digs at suburbia’s forced banality and conformity are on target. As Rowan says, “Everyone represses everything. . . . We’re middle-class and we’re British. Repression is in our veins.” A white-picket-fence-style happy ending caps off this unusual blended story. --Krista Hutley

"Funny, scary and wickedly familiar...Reading The Radleys proved an unpredictable experience, its themes crafted through a pleasurable switch of tones. On the one hand it’s a parochial comedy of manners in a...suburban setting, but it quickly gathers poison and then effortlessly enters the supernatural without ever betraying its worldly concerns.”

— Alfonso CuarÓn, director of Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉnHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men

“The Radleys is, first and foremost, the remarkable story of a family, born of denial and deceit, learning to tell the truth. That the family in question happens to be Undead is secondary, because in Matt Haig’s masterly hands vampirism is much more than blood lust. It is a yearning for love, truth, passion, and authentic connection.”

—Allison Burnett, author of Undiscovered Gyrl

“A sharp, bloody tale of abstinence and indulgence (and trying not to eat the neighbors).”

—Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts

“Matt Haig writes a wickedly clever and completely addictive vampire novel, delicious from beginning to end. Teens and adults alike will be absolute gluttons for The Radleys.”

— Lisa McMann, author of the New York Times bestselling Wake trilogy.

"Delightfully eccentric ccomedy about a family of sburban undead...a strangely moving portrait of a marriage in which both partners are compelled to deny their own instincts and longings." —Financial Times

"Witty and humane...Haig writes in addictive, bitesize chapters that pump the action along. He has fun with all the Vampyre lore...while keeping his characters convincing, original and likeable." —Daily Mail

"Haig has managed to coax something delightfully new and, unusually, rather English from a saturated genre...nifty becomes an enjoyably twisty and self-aware tale. Haig combines strong dialogue with a healthy sense of self-parody in a novel that should appeal to all vampire fans, whatever their age."—Metro (4 star review)

“The Radleys…switches deftly between a classic Carrie-style narrative of teen difference, in which the kids are teased for their outsiderness, and a parental tale of mid-life crisis.” —The Herald

“You know when you read a book that is so insanely good you just do not want it to end?” —Empire of Books

"A dark domestic drama about a loving but dysfunctional family that just happens to be vampires, though delicious moments of gore maintain its horror connection. Excerpts from The Abstainer's Handbook...cleverly mimic self-help manuals, and Haig's sly digs at suburbia's forced banality and conformity are on target...A white -picket-fence-style happy ending caps off this unusual blended story." —Booklist

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Orchard Lane

It is a quiet place, especially at night.

Too quiet, you’d be entitled to think, for any kind of monster to live among its pretty, tree-shaded lanes.

Indeed, at three o’clock in the morning in the village of Bishopthorpe, it is easy to believe the lie indulged in by its residents—that it is a place for good and quiet people to live good and quiet lives.

At this hour, the only sounds to be heard are those made by nature itself. The hoot of an owl, the faraway bark of a dog, or, on a breezy night like this one, the wind’s obscure whisper through the sycamore trees. Even if you stood on the main street, right outside the pub or the Hungry Gannet delicatessen, you wouldn’t often hear any traffic or be able to see the abusive graffiti that decorates the former post office (though the word FREAKmight just be legible if you strain your eyes).

Away from the main street, on somewhere like Orchard Lane, if you took a nocturnal stroll past the detached period homes lived in by solicitors and doctors and project managers, you would find all their lights off and curtains drawn, secluding them from the night. Or you would until you reached number seventeen, where you’d notice the glow from an upstairs window filtering through the curtains.

And if you stopped, sucked in that cool and consoling fresh night air, you would at first see that number seventeen is a house otherwise in tune with those around it. Maybe not quite as grand as its closest neighbor, number nineteen, with its wide driveway and elegant Regency features, but still one that holds its own.

It is a house that looks and feels precisely how a village family home should look—not too big, but big enough, with nothing out of place or jarring on the eye. A dream house in many ways, as estate agents would tell you, and certainly perfect to raise children.

But after a moment you’d notice there is something not right about it. No, maybe “notice” is too strong. Perhaps you wouldn’t actively realize that even nature seems to be quieter around this house, that you can’t hear any birds or anything else at all. Yet there might be an instinctive sense that would make you wonder about that glowing light and feel a coldness that doesn’t come from the night air.

If that feeling grew, it might become a fear that would make you want to leave the scene and run away, but you probably wouldn’t. You would observe the nice house and the moderately expensive car parked outside and think that this is the property of perfectly normal human beings who pose no threat to the outside world.

If you let yourself think this, you would be wrong. For 17 Orchard Lane is the home of the Radleys, and despite their very best efforts, they are anything but normal.

© 2010 Matt Haig

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Matt Haig was born in 1975, has lived in London and Spain, and now lives in north Yorkshire. He is the author of The Last Family in England, a UK bestseller narrated by a Labrador, The Dead Fathers Club, an update of Hamlet featuring an eleven-year-old boy and The Possession of Mr Cave. He has written two novels for children, Shadow Forest and its sequel The Runaway Troll.

Don't miss our
Interview with Author Matt Haig

10. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
I wanted to write a book that got to the truth about families, and about how you have to repress so much of your instincts to make life work without hurting anyone... vampires were the perfect metaphoric tool for doing that, and for adding a bit of blood and naughtiness!
Read the Rest of the Interview

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Follow this fun and easy recipe for a "Vampire Blood Drink" and share with your book club!


1 gallon cranberry juice
1 gallon orange juice
1 cup raspberry sorbet
1 quart seltzer


Mix the juices together.
Add the sorbet, softened, and stir until it disappears. Add the seltzer.
Pour into glasses and stir with Glow Sticks swizzle sticks.

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