I reviewed ‘The Family Line’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team
Megan is a former foreign correspondent whose life is thrown into turmoil when her son is diagnosed with a terminal illness: a degenerative disease passed down the mother’s line. In order to save him, Megan will have to unearth the truth about her origins and about a catastrophic event from the past. She must confront the strained relationship she has with her mother, make sense of the family history that has been hidden from her all her life, and embark on a journey of self-discovery that stretches halfway around the world. Set in a much-changed Britain in the mid-twenty-first century, The Family Line is the debut novel from acclaimed writer Laura Wilkinson, now revised and proudly reissued by Accent Press.
This is a really clever idea for a novel. There are some diverse and very interesting themes going on here – the rather grim future in store for us if we don’t change our ways, the harm that secrets and lies can do, the consequences of thinking only of ourselves, and the strength there is in family and love.
The book begins in 2048, the world coping with the consequences of climate change and the aftermath of a terrible plague. Megan, a correspondent, is pregnant and returns home to her native Wales to live with her mother. The details of how the world has changed are subtly done, introduced through the way the characters live and their surroundings. This works really well.
We then move forward a few years to Megan finding out that her son has a degenerative disease. Megan needs to delve into her family’s past in order to find a way to save him. Her mother has always been secretive, but circumstances force her to tell Megan the truth, and what she recalls takes Megan to Romania to discover their true origins.
I did have a couple of issues with this novel. It was very slow to get started and did drag a little. I didn’t really engage with it until I came to Elizabeth’s story. It was here that the narrative seemed to come alive. The build up to the plague and the devastating consequences was brilliantly done and really gripping. Elizabeth is a fantastic character, warm, three-dimensional and relatable. I didn’t feel like this about Megan however, and found her very difficult to like. She seemed selfish and her lack of empathy or sympathy for Elizabeth made it hard for me to care about her. She was too hard and too cold and while she may have had reason to be so, those reasons didn’t come across clearly enough for me to like her.
I also felt that the storyline around her son was wrapped up too quickly. I won’t go into detail because of spoilers, but it just seemed too easy.
That said, there are parts of this novel that are absolutely brilliant, really page-turning and emotional. Elizabeth’s grief and suffering is harrowing to read and so well done. Laura Wilkinson is a great storyteller, and this book has a lot to commend it. She’s certainly an author to look out for.