Ready for family centred fiction in 2021? I might have just the thing…
Grown Ups by Marie Aubert
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Date Published: 3rd June 2021
Print length: 160 pages
Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.
But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.
Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.
Following Mizuki Tsujimura’s Lonely Castle in the Mirror, this is my second experience of translated fiction.
Translated from Norwegian by Rosie Hedger, the book follows Ida – a forty year old architect grappling with her fertility.
The book was a lot shorter than I originally thought it would be and it wasn’t necessarily sweet. What it was though was a funny, sometimes uncomfortable piece of fiction about fertility, family and finding yourself at forty.
Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ida. At first, she annoyed me a great deal. As I read on, though, I began to see why she behaves in the way that she does and – despite being several years younger – I did see parts of myself in her. Despite her flaws, I did feel sorry for her as she grappled with so many emotions and difficult family relationships.
The story takes place over a long weekend as Ida is reunited with her younger sister, Marthe, Marthe’s husband Kristoffer and his daughter Olea for their mother’s birthday. As much as I enjoy reading sweet family gatherings, I loved the often uncomfortable dynamic that was presented. Not only did it make this short story feel weightier, it also gave the book a great amount of tension. Despite the overriding feeling I got from this book being tension, it was also sensitive, emotional and littered with the kind of tongue in cheek humour that I love.
The only problem with this book, due of the length of it, was that the ending wasn’t really an ending. There was a conclusion but it was so open that I (admittedly) spent a lot of time thinking I’d missed a few pages out (and actively checking!). Then again, I think the lack of a “proper” ending shows how beautifully simple this book is.
Regardless, Grown Ups was a tense but beautiful piece of short fiction about womanhood, family relationships and fertility.
A Few “Thank Yous”
I wouldn’t have been able to read this book, or participate in this Blog Tour, without a few people. Firstly, I want to thank Tara McEvoy for the invite.
Finally, I want to thank the publishers Pushkin Press for allowing me to read this book via NetGalley E-Arc and of course I want to thank the author, Marie Aubert (and translator Rosie Hedger) for this intriguing inside into womanhood and family relationships. I enjoyed this book and I hope others will, too.
About the Author
Marie Aubert made her debut in 2016 with the short story collection Can I Come Home With You, published to great acclaim in Norway. Grown Ups, is her first novel; it won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize and was nominated for the Booksellers Prize in Norway.
Grown Ups is available to buy here.
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