The Death of Lomond Friel by Sue Peebles
|The Death of Lomond Friel by Sue Peebles|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A compassionate look at a family in crisis and characters who'll stay in your mind long after you've turned the last page. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: May 2010|
|Publisher: Chatto and Windus|
Rosie was a successful radio presenter when her father, Lomond Friel, had a stroke. Whether or not Rosie was always reckless and impulsive isn't entirely clear, but once she heard about the stroke she took a break from work and began to build her life around making a future for herself and her father. There are two problems here: Rosie isn't really all that capable of looking after herself, never mind her father and Lomond is quietly plotting his own death. He might not be able to speak, to move very much, but he has plans.
There are three Friel children. Jacob and William are twins, with Jacob being the elder. Lomond and his wife Ethel thought their family complete as the plan had always been for one child and then a sibling with which it could play. Rosie was the third child, unplanned and at the mercy of Jacob's tantrums. It's strange that Lomond should now be unable to talk for Rosie was mute for part of her childhood. She doesn't know how to deal with her father though and Jacob deals with it all by being very efficient and business-like. His wife, April, takes notes. William is away on his travels and cannot be contacted.
There is just one bright spot in all this. For years Lomond has had domestic help from Kitty Danvers and it was she who found him on the kitchen floor and called for an ambulance. She's kind, she's practical and she's very attached to Lomond, but will her husband – or Lomond's family for that matter – give her the chance to help?
The family is dysfunctional – gloriously so, but they've largely coped with this by going their own ways and the problems only surface when they're forced together by crisis. It could have been written as farce – at times what's happening comes perilously close to it, but there's an extraordinary compassion in the writing. There's humour but you never want to laugh at the family, rather to cry for them.
The family come off the page as living beings but even relatively minor characters are fully fleshed. I could have fallen for Rosie's boyfriend, Wilson – she really didn't deserve him, you know – and I could have cried for Cameron the fishmonger with whom she toyed. The story is set on the East Coast of Scotland and there's a real sense of place. When I finished the book I found myself wondering how they were all getting on.
The writing is superb and I do hope that we'll hear more from Sue Peebles. I'd certainly like to thank the publishers for sending a review copy.
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