For a while now, I have been unable to read a serious, thought-provoking novel.
Hence my last review was a of a Sophie Kinsella novel that I, surprisingly, thoroughly enjoyed. The happy ending was just what I needed to soothe my soul that weekend.
I strongly believe that to truly embrace reading, one must accept that there is a time and place to enjoy different genres – even ones you generally wouldn’t go near.
So, every now and then I turn to a bit of “chick lit” (gosh, how I detest the term) or a psychological thriller.
A Game for All the Family is the first novel by Sophie Hannah that I’ve read. And after putting it down I could completely understand this statement in a review in the Guardian: “The genius of Hannah’s domestic thrillers – along with the twistiest plots known to woman – is that she creates ordinary people whose psychological quirks make them as monstrous as any serial killer”.
It all starts on an even keel with Justine quitting her high-stress job in London and moving her family to a beautiful new home in Devon where she plans on taking up a career of “doing nothing”.
But a few months into their relocation, she begins noticing subtle changes in her teen daughter, Ellen.
El is devastated when her best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. In an attempt to right the wrong, Justine heads off to said school to speak to the headmistress. Things get strange when she is told no one was expelled and there is, and was, no George at the school.
It’s an up-and-down battle of believing her daughter who has been behaving erratically since their move and going back to “doing nothing” or doing something and getting to the truth of the matter.
Some women are not made for “doing nothing” it appears. And as much as she denies it, Justine is one of them.
While El is dealing with this devastating situation, Justine begins receiving threatening calls from a strange woman with a lisp. Said lisper insinuates that she and Justine share a guilty secret and Justine has returned to Devon to harm her.
The Devon police are incapable of taking the threat seriously and further frustrate Justine’s attempts at resolving or averting a crisis, especially after the mysterious caller starts talking of three graves – two big and one small, to fit a child.
Left to her own devices and with an improbable accomplice, Justine decides to resolve the dramas in one fell swoop and in a rather unconventional way.
This was a denouement I least expected and it left me wide-eyed and searching for my jaw on the ground. I put the book down feeling quite perplexed. It’s not a comfortable feeling, I tell you.
A Game for All the Family was published in 2015 and it’s one of those novels that was sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to find the time to read.
I’m glad I did. I suggest you do too – if the unexpected doesn’t frighten you.
- A Game for All the Family is published by Hodder and Stoughton