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“The Facts of Life ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 08/06/2004

The Facts of Life
Graham Joyce
Atria, Jun 2003, $24.00, 294 pp.
ISBN: 0743463420

Everyone who lived through the War still feels its effects though Hitler and the Nazi machine have been dead for a few years. In Coventry, Mrs. Martha Vine is the hub of eight spoke-families consisting of seven daughters, several grandchildren, and a reticent spouse. Martha is a brilliant tactician running her field officers (her daughters) better than any Five Star general could lead. She also has a gift of being able to foretell what will happen. Of her seven children, Cassie inherited the forecasting skill and so has her daughter's illegitimate Anglo-American son Frank too.

Though her siblings think Cassie is mentally unhinged and at times have her committed, they also rotate who takes her and especially Frank, based on General Martha's orders that no one disobeys. Thus, the wandering Frank grows up in a vast assortment of households that range the gamut of the 1950s so that he learns a great deal about the world around him through his not so stable aunts as the people of the Coventry area try differing means to recover and heal from the intensity of Hitler.

This is a deep look at the varying ways that the battered and tired people of Coventry recover from World War II. Through Frank's wanderings between his relatives, the audience obtains an incredible picture of the heart and soul of a bone weary England struggling to recuperate on individual levels. Though more a series of interrelated shorts as seen through Frank's observations than a novel, the theme of Graham Joyce's deep tale is that THE FACTS OF LIFE are humanity can face its darkest moment and its aftermath yet confidently start over.

Harriet Klausner

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