None of them would believe me if I told them.
Anne Fine is famous as a fearless children’s writer, not afraid to tackle the hardest of realities within her books, often choosing to explore and expose the largest issues within domestic life. In her latest novel, blood family, Fine uses the overarching theme of nature vs nuture as a springboard to examine equally sensitive issues such as domestic violence, addiction, foster care and child abuse.
This multi-perspective story opens with the rescue of seven year-old Edward from an abusive domestic situation. Having been hidden from the world for the past three years, blood family follows Edward’s reintroduction into society through the eyes of himself and those around him. Life is hard when all you’ve ever known is to be afraid but when he sees an artificially aged photo of himself on a school trip, Eddie realises that sometimes the past isn’t as dead and buried as he hoped.
Choosing to narrate the story through the eyes of many characters is an incredibly effective technique in the hands of Fine as it allows the audience a rounder view of Edward’s situation without compromising the character’s naivety. As the story develops, Eddie’s voice becomes the most dominant – a reflection of him supposedly taking control of his own destiny. This created a ‘tale of two halves’ story which, almost inevitably, leads to one side superseding the other, in this case it is the opening that dominates in terms of drama and style.
blood family does also lack the lighthearted moments that usually compensate for the choice of subject matter in other popular Fine stories. Despite the multiple-perspective narrative, the tonality throughout was fairly unanimous – taking on the seriousness of the subject head on and focussing on that entirely – which can become quite draining.
What I do absolutely love about Fine is that nothing in her novels are coincidental. blood family honestly isn’t her strongest novel but it is interesting to note the decapilatisation of the title. Now this may just be a nifty design trick or publisher’s choice, but taken as separate words, ‘blood’ and ‘family’ are fairly strong if not relatively every day. When you put them together their meaning strengthens and, in context with the story, it’s also where their lines can become blurred and where Fine attempts to detangle the web woven in Edward’s story.