Centred around the four Essinger family as they descend upon their family home for Christmas, this is Markovtiz’s seventh novel and a typically incisive examination of the tensions in familial relationships. With each member of the family given their own turn at the narrative we get an insight into the conflict between living a life of one’s own and wedging oneself back into a life one no longer fits into.
There’s a dryness in the novel as despite the familial relationships, each family member is keeping secrets from one another. All conversation is superficial, as observed by Dana, the ex-partner of Paul Essinger, through whose eyes we see the family interactions most frequently. I found it difficult to warm to any of the characters as a result – although we learnt their inner thoughts, they lacked passion and depth – perhaps this is the point Markovits is making, that we revert to painted versions of our childhood selves when back together for family occasions. Although it was clever, witty and ultimately readable, this book kept me at a distance – much like the characters keep one another at arm’s length throughout.