Book review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This is one of the saddest books I've read in a long time although most popular literary books I've read of late make a good effort at being reasonably depressing.

Everything I never told youWhich is not to say Everything I Never Told You is a poor read. On the whole it is eminently readable but I found myself constantly trying to peel back my own experience of family to see if secrets, silent shame and unspoken fear are as prevalent.

Perhaps I wouldn't know but I think not, hope not. But then I haven't experienced being in a multiracial family 40 years ago amidst the racial angst of the US.

With blue eyed Marilyn seeing her daughter Lydia through her missed opportunity for independence and career, and her black haired Chinese father James content with signs of her daughter's popular normality neither can see, or want to see, so much that is unspoken, or deliberately hidden abut Lydia, their middle child.

While we know the outcome from the start - the what - it is the gradual revealing of the how, why and who that makes this novel a powerfully compulsive read. It's a risky but successful device to give us the turning point of the novel in the opening line: 'Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.' It drives us to want to know what it is like to discover such a terrible fact and then to discover why. A family is dismembered (psychologically) in the process.

Tolstoy's famous opening sentence from Anna Karenina, 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way' seems a useful summary not only of Everything I Never Told You but of thousands of novels which fascinate by the unique unfolding of unhappiness in families. 

Any one will relate to the struggle - so poignantly told here - that we all endure to outlive those many things that contrive to drag us to the bottom and drown us. We may well know people who haven't survived for a variety of reasons so be mindful of stirred loss as you read...


Popular posts from this blog

Book review: The life to come by Michelle de Krester

Book review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Book review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes