‘I don’t think I’ve ever read a more assured or compelling debut. This is beautifully written, sometimes sad, often funny’ — Elly Griffiths
Welcome to the dark heart of the family – the secrets we keep, the memories we treasure and the relationships we feel bound to, but long to escape.
Edward and Isobel haven’t spoken for years and live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. When their mother, Mary, dies unexpectedly, they are thrown together to sort through the family home. With Julie, Edward’s diffident but devoted girlfriend, making an awkward third, each stumbles through the practicalities and funeral preparations, trying to make sense of their emotions and their feelings towards one another.
Then Isobel makes a disturbing discovery and her fateful decision has consequences for them all, challenging their beliefs about the past, hopes for the future, and understanding of Mary’s role in keeping them at once apart and together.
This utterly immersive novel is rich with insightful and wickedly comic observations of family members behaving badly in stressful situations – of sibling rivalries, a parent torn between the two, and a grieving process that takes time to unfold.
Beginning in a small coastal town during the Spring Bank Holiday, the novel moves forward through the point of view of each of the characters in turn, and culminates on Christmas Eve.
The Bookbag13 June 2017
Siblings Edward and Isobel Vernon haven't spoken in years and live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. When their mother Mary dies unexpectedly, they are thrown together to sort through the family home. With Edward's diffident but devoted girlfriend, Julie, making an awkward threesome, each stumbles through the practicalities of funeral preparation and house clearing, trying to make sense of their emotions and their feelings toward one another. Isobel makes a disturbing discovery and her fateful decision has consequences for all of them, challenging their beliefs about the past, hopes for the future and understanding of Mary's role in keeping them at once apart and together.
Author S V Berlin was born and raised in London, and has worked as a copywriter, facilitator, speechwriter, and, in a rather surprising career move, a Wilderness search and rescue professional. She now lives in Manhattan, and The Favourite is her debut novel.
The death of a loved one is the starting point for a lot of novels - families drawn back together, secrets uncovered and conversations opened up by the raw rage that grief can bring. As much as that sounds like ripe pickings for an author to create a fantastic plot, it can also lead to a predictable lead - a family member dies, a secret is uncovered, drama happens, and everything is resolved with an element of closure. Sound familiar? Thought so. Don't be expecting that here though - S V Berlin has taken those elements and brought them together to craft something original, surprising, and immensely skilled considering it's a debut novel.
It's in the character work that Berlin really shines - creating a trio of people who are real - at turns relatable and unlikeable. Telling the story from the perspective of the three characters, sometimes showing the same moment from the three distinct viewpoints, allows the reader indepth access into the thoughts and motivations that drive these characters. Berlin's skill is such that one character can come across as wholly unpleasant and unlikeable in one chapter, then turning things so that the same character seems good and relatable the next moment. It's a real balancing act, and one that must take some considerable skill. Those characters take part in a plot that initially seems rather mundane - a daughter returns home after the death of her mother, and is met by her brother and his girlfriend. From there, the plot forges a new and rather fascinating path - twisting in unexpected directions and keeping the reader on their toes throughout. Underneath the gentle suburban drama that appears to be on the surface here is an intricately crafted plot featuring three fascinating characters – it's a read well worth your time, and a fantastically assured debut.