The six days during which the variously dissatisfied Blackfords reunite around a family crisis are marked by bad behavior, old secrets, and recalibrated life choices.
David and Margaret Blackford may make an attractive couple, but he considers marriage “a sour deal” and she wants him to fail, “any chance to take him down a notch or two.” Their three adult daughters, Georgina, Jacqueline, and Philippa—given quasi-boys' names because David always wanted a son—also express disenchantment and grievances about their lives and marriages: Georgina yearns to go back and take a different path; Jax, like her father, blames her spouse for her own failings; and Pippa wishes there were more to life than drift. Hobson’s debut is founded in this family’s repetitive chorus of complaints, which the author casually pulls apart, injects with absurdity and some horror, and then reassembles. The family home is a vast mansion sited on five acres of parkland overlooking Lake Ontario, a luxurious dwelling but also a place of violent intimacy. The lavish garden is David’s pride and joy and is about to be opened to the public, against Margaret’s wishes since Pippa—heavily pregnant with her fifth child—is suddenly on her way home from New Zealand, and the other girls are returning, too, to lend support. Hobson’s narrative is calm even when her consideration of individual characters is interrupted by flashes of wild revelation or event, from the farcical garden tour to the perilous fall of a newborn off a cliff. In the novel’s surreal, sexually avid, sometimes fairy-tale world, such extremes might shock, or else might appear to be false starts, keeping the reader off balance within a teetering landscape.
A tale of scorching family dysfunction that ranges among the gothic, domestic, and carnal, snagging the reader's attention with its odd, unpredictable vision.