Uncle Paul: Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday

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Uncle Paul: Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday

Uncle Paul: Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday

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I loved the balance between tension and normality in this one, and the humour played a key role in diffusing some of that angst.

The novel opens as Meg receives a telegram from her sister Isabel explaining that their older sister Mildred needs help. Fremlin had been on my ‘must try’ list for years, so I’m very happy to have finally got around to her! In a seaside caravan resort, Isabel and her sister Meg build sandcastles with the children, navigate deckchair politics, explore the pier’s delights, gorge ice cream in the sun. Next we have Isabel who seems to get overwrought at the drop of a hat because she senses her husband may not love her and their two boys quite as much as she'd like him to.

In summary, Uncle Paul is an utterly brilliant novel, a very clever and skilfully executed exploration of fear and suspicion, very much in the style of Patricia Highsmith’s and Shirley Jackson’s domestic noirs laced with the social comedy of Barbara Pym. Many thanks to Netgalley and Faber and Faber for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. There are similar elements, the focus on women, very often the drudgery of domestic work; and women's roles as wife and mother.

It starts with sensible Meg receiving a message from older sister (and often overwrought), Isabel about a problem with their half-sister, Mildred. Meg learns to be more accepting of the perspective of others; to not dismiss the silliness of women, who don't have good vocabs and rational faculties.

It all comes to a glorious climax which is, arguably, more 'psychological' than some of Fremlin's later books. Even with a bit of eye-rolling, this was a quick read and comes in toward the bottom of the 3-star group. But to keep ourselves on our toes, we have a rule that author gender is alternated, girl-boy-girl-boy, and the continents always rotated (with occasional glitches). Their family holiday at the seaside village where Mildred and Uncle Paul once honeymooned becomes the setting for a tense drama of suspicion, betrayal, and revenge. Finally, we have Meg and Isabel’s much older half-sister, Mildred, also on her second marriage; but despite being financially comfortable, her relationship with husband Hubert is somewhat unstable to say the least.

Its not really the Agatha Christie cosy crime story that its sold as - even the tagline on the cover 'Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday' rings false - marketing spin rather than accurate. She seems largely unknown, but maybe this will be another hit for Faber, and bring her some of the recognition she deserves.

There’s a good cast of supporting characters in this book - I particularly liked Cedric, the annoying know-it-all child who kept contradicting the adult characters. Isabel’s new husband, Philip – an ex-Army type and a stickler for discipline – is easily riled by his stepsons’ behaviour, clearly a source of worry for Isabel as she embarks on her new life. I loathed the characters of Isabel and Mildred, the elder sisters of Meg, our narrator, who is calm, rational and stable in contrast to the silly-willy, dithering, blethering, can't ever decide on anything Isabel, 10 years senior to Meg, and then Mildred is stubborn, rich, spoilt, purposeless and worse, as the plot develops. These two sisters confront the fact that in the past they had feelings for a certain Uncle Paul - who was sent to prison for bigamy and the murder of his first wife - it's on the back cover! From Nobel Laureates Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter to theatre greats Tom Stoppard and Alan Bennett to rising stars Polly Stenham and Florian Zeller, Faber Drama presents the very best theatre has to offer.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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