When her mother is sent to prison for three months for assaulting a policeman with a stiletto shoe, fifteen-year-old Caris goes gently off the rails. Whilst her taxi-driver father Mac attempts to keep the family together, Caris meets George, a boy from the other side of the vale and from a very different sort of family. Their relationship leads her away from school and what she has known, into a new and unnerving world - and looks set to throw the family into terrifying chaos. Julia Darling's acclaimed novel blends the gritty and the everyday with the evocative and the enchanting, to create an original, inventive and often moving portrayal of family ties, suburban life, love and growing up.
Julia Darling's first novel, Crocodile Soup, was long-listed for the Orange Prize in 1998 and received many plaudits for the assurance of her writing and her eye for detail, qualities which are developed to the full in this latest novel. It is rare to find a writer capable of tackling the gradual disintegration of a family under stress with such tender restraint, such an acute ear for the nuances of the different generations, such an awareness of the volatility of mood and the tenacity of love in a family relationship. Darling's characters scream and rail at each other, snarl and fight, retreat to their rooms to lick their wounds, hurl ornaments and insults with gay abandon and even cast each other upon the mercy of the elements. Yet Darling leaves us in no doubt that this is a family where love and loyalty are unquestioned, where everyone supports each other, despite the cursing and threats of divorce. This is her true gift - to show that in a moment of crisis, when the family unit appears to be on the verge of collapse, it can and will survive, in the face of all the external pressures that are brought to bear on it. This is above all Caris's story. 15 years old, wild, rebelling against school, her tedious friend and the suffocating example of her too-good-to-be-true big sister, Caris is desperate to carve a niche for herself in the world. She is full of questions - the same questions which have plagued teenagers since the dawn of time: 'Why should I do this?' 'What is the purpose of it all?' 'Why does it matter? When her mother, Louise, is arrested for shoplifting and sentenced to three months in prison, Caris, her sister Stella and her taxi driver father Mac a
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