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Those Faraday Girls - Monica McInerney

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WITH so many family sagas flooding the market, you could be forgiven for saying enough is enough. But the thing is, no two families are exactly the same which means, of course, stories can also be vastly different. And so it is with Those Faraday Girls by Australian-born author Monica McInerney.

There are five Faraday girls – Juliet, Miranda, Eliza, Sadie and Clementine – and they live in Hobart, Tasmania with their eccentric widowed father who has never quite got over their mother’s death. But life goes on and, setting their own grief aside, the girls make the best of a bad situation – even when 16 year-old Clementine becomes pregnant.

Maggie is the result, a delightful child who, with her mother frequently away pursuing a career, is looked after by the aunts – by Sadie in particular – until shortly before Maggie’s sixth birthday when the ghost of her dead grandmother tears the family apart.

Twenty years later, Maggie is living alone in New York when her grandfather pays a surprise visit. He has a plan to reunite the family but he needs Maggie’s help. It means travelling to Ireland and it’s there, as she’s forced to confront the past, that Maggie realises that the aunts she thought she knew so well, all have something to hide.

This is a nicely written book that captures the very essence of family life. So real, in fact, are the exchanges between the girls that a sense of deja vu is almost inevitable – reassuringly so I found. And it takes sibling rivalry to new heights. Just imagine though – five very different sisters, all with equally different ideas!

And McInerney has children down to a tee. For example, Maggie once told Clementine that ‘the kids…said I’m a basket because I don’t live with my Dad.’ Perhaps I should point out that Those Faraday Girls begins in 1979 when attitudes to unmarried mothers was far less tolerant than it is today. As for children mixing up words, that will never change.

But for every humorous episode, there’s a serious moment and McInerney isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects such as infertility. Her perception of a woman’s despair is profound: ‘Month after month came the disappointment. More than disappointment. It was a need, an ache, a space needing to be filled.’ And so it continues with the despair becoming almost palpable.

In some ways, yet without being remotely the same, Those Faraday Girls echoes Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Much of what happens is directly connected with the girls’ dead mother, just as Rebecca is responsible for the events that take place at Manderley. And like Rebecca, she is not at all what she seemed. However, that’s where all similarities end.

Those Faraday Girls isn’t a taxing book and it is very entertaining, ideal for a late-night read or a holiday. As such, it comes highly recommended.