A Game for All the Family

by Sophie Hannah | Literature & Fiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 9780062388292 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 5/15/2020
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, May 15, 2020
I got this ex-library hardcover from Better World Books. It's advertised to be a thriller along the lines of The Girl on the Train, and I suppose it is - though the whole question of whether we have an unreliable narrator is twisted around. (I also got a bit of a Shirley Jackson vibe from the blurb, which talks about the family's daughter who comes home from school bereft that her friend George has been expelled - but the school principal tells her mother that there is no George at their school; Jackson's short story "Charles" is about a boy who talks about the misbehaviors of his classmate Charles, only for the parents to learn that Charles doesn't exist.)

As for this book: it did not go the way I expected it to, despite lots of foreshadowings from the author hinting at issues with the protagonist/narrator. She recounts how her family has moved to a lovely and expansive home in a remote coastal town, seeking a fresh start after what is gradually revealed to have been disastrous professional upsets and some personal issues. At first things seem fine, but when her daughter Ellen starts withdrawing from the family, writing oddly-detailed family trees about strangers as part of what she claims is a school project, and then becoming distraught at the unfair expulsion of her dear friend George, the plot kicks into Weird territory.

The school officials whom the mother contacts in hopes of working something out re George tell her flatly that there is no George at the school. Ellen refuses to admit that she made him up and becomes even more distraught, understandably enough. And then the threatening phone calls begin - a woman unknown to the narrator calls and demands that she and her family leave or face the consequences...

The whole situation escalates such that it seems clear that *somebody* is stalking/threatening the protagonist - but the details involving the bizarre family saga that Ellen is supposedly writing, the increasingly odd behavior of the school staff, and the eventual revelations that Ellen wasn't making George up at all, turn the story into something much more weird than I'd expected going in.

I wouldn't have minded that if it felt balanced, but the setup was so off-kilter, the protagonist's behavior so unlikely, and the actions of many of the other characters so hard to believe that I really didn't care by the end who was going to "win". (The involvement of the way-too-nice dog-lady was another red herring - or was it?)

There's a dark twist at the end that - well, as a fan of very dark tales and gruesome vengeance, I'd have thought I'd like it better than I did, but as I said above, the whole story felt unbalanced and I didn't really buy the characters, relationships, or plot. So it was more cartoonish than anything else, at least for me... If I did find the characters believable I'd have to really worry about the future of that family, given how the situation wrapped up!

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Little Free Library, Heritage Rail Trail in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, November 28, 2020

Released 1 mo ago (11/28/2020 UTC) at Little Free Library, Heritage Rail Trail in Nashua, New Hampshire USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I left this book in the slightly-akilter Little Free Library on the trail near the community gardens; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2020 Thanksgiving challenge. ***

*** Released for the 2020 The The challenge. ***

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