Book Review: The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce

the-facts-of-lifeThe Facts of Life

by Graham Joyce
ISBN 0-7434-6342-0
Atria Books, 2003

Graham Joyce sets his tale in bomb-ravished Coventry, England. German bombers targeted the industrial city of Coventry many times during World War II, but most devastatingly on November 14, 1940 when bombs obliterated the heart of this city that lies at the heart of England. In Joyce’s novel, this devastation sways social norms and jaggedly exposes previously hidden or dismissed facts of life. Death, sex, and transcendent intuition become part of the day-to-day.

The book features three strong main characters: Martha, the matriarch of a tightly knit family of girls; Cassie, the youngest daughter who is flighty on a good day and prone to episodic mental vacations; and Frank, the illegitimate son of Cassie. All three inherited the ability to communicate with the dead, and their genetic ability drives the story. Joyce demonstrates skill with character development in all cases. We learn to understand and love them in spite of their flaws, and he leaves just the right amount of mystery so we can speculate and choose what we want to believe about them.

Only in the fullness of the telling do all the details of the story fall into place. Joyce creates “Ah, ha” moments of understanding but, again, leaves just the right amount of room for speculation about what to believe about how, or which, events transpired.

Part fantasy, part historical fiction, part romance, and part war story, this novel covers a lot of genres. This mystical tale of family and humanity satisfies a lot of different reading appetites.


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on May 22, 2013, in Book Club, Book reviews, Books for the beach, Books I borrowed, Fiction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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