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Title: The Facts of Life

Author: Graham Joyce

Publisher: Phoenix Press

Release Date:2002

Pages: Paperback, 272 pages

Genres:  General Fiction, Fiction, Historical, Fantasy

Summary:  THE FACTS OF LIFE tells the story of an extraordinary family of seven sisters living in Coventry during the Second World War.  Presided over by an indomitable matriarch, the sisters live out a  tangled and fraught life that takes them through the Blitz, war work and on into the hopeful postwar years, and a bizarre interlude for one of them in a commune.  And through it all wanders the young son of one of the sisters, passed from sister to sister, the innocent witness to a life that edges over into the magical


My a bit more insightful summary (Mild Spoilers) :

Set in the post WWII Coventry, destroyed by the blitz, “The Facts of Life” tells the story of the Vine family.

Cassie, the youngest and oddest of seven sisters, arrives home with the her baby Frank, that despite her family insistence she declined to give, creating a huge discussion.Everybody knows that although her 21 years, she is incapable of raising a children. Martha Vine , the matriarch of the “odd lot” that’s the Vine family, declares that the baby is going to stay with the family, but because of Cassie’s lack of responsibility, all the sisters must play a role in Franks life when it’s needed. And with  that, the future of Frank is set.

Through his infancy, Frank will stay with each one of his aunts (excluding Olive), which makes him live several experiences that not every child as de luck or bad luck of living. He will met the Man – Behind – The – Glass , “contact” with spirits, see the preparation of a corpse, live in a commune,…

My Thoughts:

In “The Facts of Life”, Graham Joyce narrates the story of a family, that just like this book, it’s unique.

The Vine’s family is a very interesting and united family, the kind where the three musketeers motto applies. There are seven sisters , each one of them with a unique personality that we discovers as Frank grows up and . Aida is the most conservative of the sisters, Evelyn and Ida are very spiritual, Olive , the with whom Frank doesn’t stay, is married to an unfaithful husband,  making her very depressed; Una is the nicest of the lot, I always saw he as the future matriarch; Beatie, the most rebellious of the seven, with left tendencies, is educated in Oxford  and lives in a commune, with her boyfriend, and finally Cassie, the youngest and most free spirited of them all.

I jut loved how Joyce portrayed this family and its dynamics. The Vine’s  are  one of those families that we always wanted to be part of , they have the odd relatives, that strange moments where all the sisters start laughing for no reason, the matriarch figure, that odd spiritual moments, the family reunions that no one misses,…

What’s also really interesting about this book is the way the spiritual world fits  in, without seeming fake. Martha’s visits of  ghosts at the door, Cassie’s abilities to see the dead (no, this is not like Ghost Whisper, she can see them, not talk to them), and Franks unclear gift, just give the book a whole new dimension, giving the story a new meaning and turning the Vine’s family even more fantastic.

I can’t decide what’s my favourite episode of the book, because I really liked two episodes but one of them is really tragic and the other it’s just funny and satirical. The tragic one is the Coventry Blitz, where we finally discovered the full possibilities of Cassie’s gift and understand why she’s so loony. Besides this is a very emotional episode and with historical rigor and detail which turned it a lot more real to my eyes. I won’t lie this part of the book really moved me.

The other episode that I liked is when Frank stays in the commune. This episode as some hilarious moments, but it’s also really satirical, as Joyce portrays in a humourous away all the problems of living in a commune where everyone thinks that the house work should be shared, but really very few care, and where the habitants are more interested in their academic life, and criticising the Government than doing something to show the world that their political views actually work in the real life. In this scene, he poor state of the commune is described and sometimes it’s bit disgusting. How can someone live like that?

My favourite character is Martha, though her age and all her health issues, she still remains the pillar of the family, not being able to rest as her daughters problems are her own, and having seven of them makes it hard to have some trouble-free time. Martha is one of the strongest female characters that I’ve read about, she is smart, strong and matriarch of the Vine’s, but that doesn’t make less caring of her daughters, for the contrary, that’s what makes her care so much.

The prose of “The Facts of Life” is fluid and very sentimental, which is needed for describing a family like the Vine’s that are all so emotionally driven.

Final Thoughts:

“The Facts of Life” is a realistic and sentimental portrait of the family life that is both humours and tragic. A truly must read

Three Things:

I liked :

  • The spiritual world
  • The unique and distinctive personality of the sisters
  • The critical side of the book

I disliked:

  • Professor Feek ( I hate that man, he’s so hypocrite,
  • The book not being longer
  • The third I can’t say because it’s a major spoiler.