Book Review: A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

The cover and the simplicity of the blurb drew me in, but while reading it, I witnessed complex relationships in a deeply intimate portrayal of a modern family.

Book Description

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

My Thoughts

If you look up the meaning of exquisite in the dictionary, you’ll see it perfectly describes this book. The first meaning of this adjective is “extremely beautiful and delicate”. And that is exactly the relationships that are portrayed in this in this novel. The examination of sibling relationships, roles and dynamics with the family, traditions, foundations, stability – all that and more is placed under the microscope. When you take away the foundation, you see how fragile everything else becomes. From the perspectives of these three siblings, you see how they are affected by their parents divorce and if/how it changes their future. So beautifully written, no dramatics, just three characters made fully vulnerable to the reader.

The second meaning of exquisite is “intensely felt”. In a novel where not a lot occurs, you get to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in the lives of Liv, Ellen and Håkon – the impact and the aftermath intensely felt.

“With a shrug of their shoulders they’re tearing down everything I’ve built my life on”

The thought-provoking nature of this novel is that you can’t help but take a closer look at your own family, and the impact it would have on you if the foundation you knew changed. Maybe your own experiences would have you thinking Liv, Ellen and Håkon are justified in their feelings, or maybe you’d think they’re overreacting. Either way, their feelings are real to them, and they become real to you too because throughout this novel, you come to known these siblings as real people, so powerful are the psychological insights. 

With nothing lost in the translation by Rosie Hedger, this quietly powerful novel is one of the most honest examinations I have read of how three siblings come to terms with their parents’ divorce. How the ripples of a decision unsettle a modern family. Definitely a book I recommend to those looking for an intimate, emotionally-charged read.

This book is available to buy from Amazon UK / Book Depository

*My thanks to the publisher (Orenda Books) for providing me with a copy of this title*

4 thoughts on “Book Review: A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

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