Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2003 World Fantasy Award Graham Joyce chronicles a haunting, war-torn terrain in this heartrending novel of one family's quest to begin again -- without forgetting the lives they left behind.
"The Facts of Life"
Set in Coventry, England, during and immediately after World War II, "The Facts of Life" revolves around the early years of Frank Arthur Vine, the illegitimate son of young, free-spirited Cassie and an American GI. Because Cassie is too unreliable and unstable to act as his proper guardian -- and is prone to "blue" periods in which she wanders off without warning or recollection -- Frank is brought up in the care of his strong-willed, stout-drinking grandmother, Martha Vine, who has, among other homemaking talents, the untoward ability to communicate with the dead.
So begins the first decade of Frank's life, one in which ghosts have a place at the table and divine order dictates the outcome of his days. Along the way there are brief stays with each of his six eccentric aunts, visits to the local mortuary, and voices inside of his own head that suggest that he, too, has the gift of supernatural intuition. An affecting tale of family and history, war and peace, love and madness, "The Facts of Life" will leave readers spellbound with its resounding expression of magic realism.
"A rich and engaging account of particular lives amid history and great change, narrated with real grace by a master storyteller." Kirkus Reviews
"Joyce walks with the grace of a circus star, or a Henry James, on that narrow line between seeming and being." Salon.com
"Magical realism has its detractors these days, but don't dismiss it before you give a novel like this one a chance. Yes, it's odd; it's fey; it manipulates you; it's not really real. But who's to say, in the end, what's real and what isn't?" Zofia Smardz, The Washington Post
"Warm with nostalgia and flecked with the subtle fantasy that seasons nearly all [Joyce's] fiction....[T]he subtlety with which Joyce presents clairvoyant episodes makes them entirely credible....[A] haunting story..." Publishers Weekly
"Joyce explores the shape and the texture of truth, walks the thin line between the religious and the sexual, and makes readers marvel at the power of the spirit and the psyche...as a haunting expression of magic realism, [he] evokes the work of Gabriel García Márquez." Booklist
"I won't bother saying Graham Joyce deserves to find a wide audience in America; rather I think the American audience deserves to find him." Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
"Graham Joyce creates families to break your heart..." The Guardian (UK)
"Joyce is brilliant....[The Facts of Life] is a book about beginnings that are also continuities, and about ordinary lives stranger than casual inspection knows." Time Out, London
"[The Facts of Life] is the kind of book I love to read! It's an epic saga about family, love, war, and magic. Joyce's characters are memorable. They remind me of some of my own weird relatives. I have not been so charmed by a novel in a long time." Isabel Allende
"Reading The Facts of Life is like stepping into a fictional dream that has resonances, in turn, of Dickens, John Irving, Ian McEwan, Robertson Davies, and Paul Auster. What begins with a quiet pace suddenly sweeps one up in an eddy of quirks. The picaresque family novel brings an unexpected revelation at every corner, and what seems morbid and profane is transformed into beautiful and nearly divine. What a delicious discovery!" Alev Lytle Croutier, author of Seven Houses and The Palace of Tears
Graham Joyce directs his immense storytelling gifts in an altogether new direction and achieves the most ambitious and psychologically captivating work of his career. As he chronicles the story of the Vine family, the prize-winning author of Smoking Poppy
invests a bygone era with great authenticity and powerful atmosphere.
Set during and immediately after World War II, The Facts of Life follows the fortunes of Frank Arthur Vine, the result of a tryst between his mother Cassie and an American GI. Because Cassie is too unreliable and unstable to act as his proper guardian, Frank is brought up alternately by his mother's six very different sisters -- each singularly idiosyncratic -- and by his beguiling and charismatic grandmother.
But, as his mother knows, and his grandmother strongly suspects, Frank is no ordinary child.
The Facts of Life takes place in Coventry, in the English Midlands, the notorious target of Hitler's fiercest bombing raid and, some nine centuries earlier, the scene of the infamous Lady Godiva's naked ride through the marketplace. Peopled with entrancing characters, it is an enormously affecting tale of family and sisterhood, of the kindness and the madness of women, of the fantastic breaking through in a troubled world.
A dramatic departure for the prize-winning author of Indigo an exquisitely written, multifaceted wartime saga of identity, connection, and emotional endurance centering on an unforgettable English family during and after the Second World War.
About the Author
Graham Joyce is the author of Smoking Poppy, Indigo (a New York Times Notable Book of 2000), The Tooth Fairy (a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998), Requiem, Dark Sister, and Dreamside. He lives in Leicester, England, with his wife and two children.