A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
eBook review copy; 464 pages
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah is a complex family drama where insanity is a close companion.
Justine Merrison has left London for Devon, along with her opera singer
husband, Alex, and their 14 year-old daughter, Ellen. Justine, a former
TV producer plans to do nothing at Speedwell House, their new estate.
Trouble starts when she receives a weird, oddly threatening phone call
from some woman who apparently thinks Justine should know her. After a
second phone call, it becomes clear that whoever is calling has a lot of
information about Justine while she still doesn't have a clue about the
identity of the caller.
At the same time her daughter Ellen is writing a murder mystery story
for school about the Ingrey family, who, from the story, may have lived
at Speedwell House in the past. Justine is concerned about the events in
the story and her daughter's frame of mind to be writing about such
things. When she talks to Ellen, Ellen is more distraught that her best
friend, George Donbavand, has been expelled from school for no good
reason. When Justine asks about George at the school, she is told that
no such student ever existed.
All the bizarre events meander down a twisted, convoluted trail with
several implausible leaps of intuition to eventually interconnect in the
end. While Hannah does an excellent job making you wonder about the
reliability of Justine as a narrator, she also expects you to follow and
accept Justine's implausible connections and impetuous behavior as
normal perceptive actions. Many of them aren't. Additionally, there is a
whole lot going on that you need to keep straight, including alternate
chapters with the story Ellen is writing about the Ingrey family.
I'm in a quandary about this novel. While I basically enjoyed it, it
also felt way too long, complicated, and entangled to be credible. No
matter how how relaxed the school is, no head mistress of a school would
give out any information about a family in the school. Additionally,
most people would contact the police as soon as they received the first
threatening phone call, and they would have been taken seriously until
they had cause to doubt their veracity. In most cases the authorities
would be called if a family was behaving like the Donbavands.
There were more problematic leaps of credibility for me. While I did
enjoy the novel, I'm not sure the ending was worth it. For that reason
it's only recommended.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for
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