Family Album (2009): Penelope Lively

★★★½

Allersmead. It’s a grand name for a house, but this suburban pile is the kind of house that deserves a name. Comfortable and sprawling, it has watched over the growing pains and squabbles of the family: six children; their mismatched parents; and Ingrid, the capable au pair who has never left and has been absorbed into the tribe. Redolent with cooking or baking, the house rambles around its kitchen, the heart of so many memories. But time passes. Children grow and move away. When one of them, Gina, brings her boyfriend Philip back to meet her parents, he begins to ask questions about her past. An only child, he’s fascinated by the dynamics between six siblings and curious about Gina’s parents. As Gina begins to tell her tale, dipping in and out of her family’s past, Lively reveals the tangled tale of a household built around secrets and lies, in which things are half-known but never admitted, for fear of spoiling the image of contentment.

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