The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

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The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: And you thought your parents were embarrassing.. or pretentious... or inconsiderate... or able to break your heart. Anyone who ever had a parent should consider this.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 314 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1447202387

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Annie Fang and her brother Buster are back living at home with their parents - where they never thought they'd ever be again. But it has come to this - her film actress career is on the rocks with the kind of self-destruction so much enjoyed by tabloid writers, and he - well, he's here because of a jumbo spud gun. Neither wants life back at home, as throughout their childhood they were used by their parents - without much planning, without any consideration of feelings, or consent - in a whole career of performance art pieces, designed to enact a point of life or just cause havoc.

These artworks (more pieces of invisible theatre, but I won't quibble) are described at length between each proper chapter and point brilliantly to just what sort of family this is - and in some regards to what book they're in. The Fang parents are loving, stable, interesting, creative - like the book, but besides that give the children an unintentional bad time. Wilson doesn't do this, for although they and the novel are borne from a wackiness and verging-on-OTT oddity, Annie and Buster are great characters, her in particular, and the 'real' chapters that alternate between the two, added to the enactment documentation, really make you sympathise and understand the plight that may just be having such artistic parents.

Wilson almost lets go at a couple of points to quote Larkin's famous line, and I've seen some reviews that disliked the book because allegedly the parents f--ked the kids up just too much. But I felt this, as so much here, was perfectly balanced. The artworks are on the cusp of being noticeable as such by their observers and unwilling participants, and the pieces Wilson devises for the Fangs are similarly on the cusp of being plausible and realistic. And that's exactly what the older characters are too. See? Balanced.

Tip the scales either way, as well, and this book would be much less funny than it is. I'd readily admit I read things too straight, naively accepting things rather than infer sarcasm. Certainly, by the end here I was laughing less, as the latest Fang project (sort of Operation: Cry Wolf) gets more serious. But saying that I laughed, severally, and I'm damned sure you would too.

This is a stable and solid look at family life, with a most interesting and creative way to portray having to fight against the embarrassment all children feel at their parents. It's loving - loving its world and sense of droll absurdity a little too much perhaps, but it's a world I very gratefully entered, and can easily recommend.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

A lesser look at modern art is Dead Cat With Firelighter by Frances Day. You might also enjoy Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes.

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