Alfred White has always ruled his family with a mixture of tenderness and toughness. Such was his toughness that he has alienated his two eldest children and doesn’t understand what’s happening in the life of his youngest child, but when he collapses at work, they all rush to be by his side. However, just when the family should be pulling together, they find themselves fragmenting. Oldest son Darren is married to his third wife and comes over from his home in New York and old resentments float to the surface. Daughter Shirley upset her father years ago by marrying an black man, and after being widowed is still at odds with her father over her new relationship with another black man. Youngest son Dirk hates all non-white people and his anger at Shirley reaches boiling point. Things must come to a head, and when they do, who will step up and see that justice is done?
This book is told from the point of view of all of the different family members as well as a few other people who know the family. The different viewpoints make for an interesting narrative, as accounts of events overlap and are seen through different eyes.
I thought this was a fabulous read. Each character is realistically brought to life, and are very distinct from each other. Many of them are not sympathetic characters (Shirley is easily the nicest one of them all), but in each case their motives and reasons for their beliefs and actions are explained , although certain actions are certainly not excused or softened – and nor should they be. Opinions are explained and while it is impossible to agree with how certain people behave, I could certainly understand why they behaved that way.
Maggie Gee has written a beautiful novel, which explores the prejudices which people hold and live with, and which certainly pulls no punches. I thought it was a very thought-provoking book, which while heavy at times in subject matter, was always compelling. I will certainly be seeking out more books by this author.