The Rabbits by Sophie Overett is a family drama with a light dusting of magic realism.
It’s not going to appeal to every reader, but for the right audience, it’s got a lot to offer.
The Rabbit family (and no, they’re not actual animals – that’s their surname) is in a state of flux. Delia Rabbit has her hands not just full but overflowing. Her partner, Ed, has left after more than twenty years. Her mother is slipping deeper into dementia. She is having an ill-advised affair with one of her students.
Her eldest daughter Olive appears to hate her and is leading an unstable and unhappy existence. Youngest son Ben is in a constant state of anxiety. Her middle son, 16-year-old Charlie, is rather odd but seems the happiest and most stable.
And then Charlie disappears.
This is largely a family drama, focussing in turns on each of the Rabbits and how they’re coping with life in general.
Although we readers discover quite quickly what’s happened to Charlie, I was still mildly disconcerted by the general lack of interest in his disappearance.
Then again, each of the Rabbits is entangled in their own concerns. Overett shines here, exploring each family member sensitively. She manages the delicate balance of making things clear without spelling them out too explicitly.
In Delia, Overett has created an equally vivid and believable character, with all too believable problems. Delia is beset on all sides, pushed and pulled by feelings she understands far better than Olive understands hers.
Delia’s muted emotional response – with no real panic – seems particularly strange given her family history. That didn’t sit comfortably with me. The entire novel does have a rather dry, muted tone, which generally worked well, but for me, this one element jarred. I suspect that most readers who don’t enjoy “The Rabbits” are likely to founder on this point.
I also felt that the “conditions” of Charlie’s invisibility hadn’t been well worked out. Magic realism works best when it’s underpinned by internal consistency, and I felt this was weak.
The novel is written in a dry, observational style that mutes some of the emotional reactions. Still, it works, shifting us between characters without switching tone but still letting us feel we’re in the heads of very different people.
This is a solid debut. It is not perfect, but the problems are minor. As I said, it’s not a novel for every reader. However, many will find that the slight distance conveyed by the style lets you explore the different characters in depth without getting too mired in any one person’s emotions.
I enjoyed this, finding it an interesting way to explore a family in crisis.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Rabbits by Sophie Overett. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .