Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland
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…
Families can be incredibly complicated. They can bring us pain, happiness, relief, despair and security. These people who can take up such a large part of our lives, people who we don’t choose but that we are bound too. Helga captures this perfectly in The Modern Family.
When, during a family celebration, Liv, Ellen and Håkon discover that their parents are getting divorced there is naturally a massive fallout. Suddenly life is thrown completely off it’s axis and all are shaken by the effects. Everything they came to believe in is questioned. Blame is placed.
Most families have conflict. There is sibling rivalry amongst even the closest and quite often we become blind to the suffering of others, because ours always seems greater. This is one thing that struck me about this novel. The misunderstandings and the difficulty of looking at things through someone else’s eyes.
Helga has written the novel through the eyes of the three grown children. Each has a very distinct voice and each has a very different perspective to their family. It reminds us how complex these units of people are. There is such skill shown in the writing, you can feel the character (and their emotions) erupt from the page.
This is a beautiful novel, tinged with sadness but even during the heartbreak I felt the strength of the family. No matter what happened they were there for each other. This was never more apparent then at certain low points. For me it showed that no matter how fractured we become as life moves on and we each become our own person (and accept that our parents are too!), family can still be there. It may look a little different, but love and a shared history stand for an awful lot.
Another thing that stood out for me was the expectations quite often felt by children of their parents. Helga addresses this without pulling any punches, letting her characters show us in their raw, uncensored thoughts how easy it is to let expectations blind us. How our childlike feelings towards our parents can reoccur at any age.
A parent, generally, has a very specific role in our lives as adults: in this case to grow old quietly and to be consistent. What a shock when this is challenged by admitting, so late in life, that nothing is guaranteed and that, even at seventy, life can change so dramatically. The subject of age and how, in modern life, getting older doesn’t mean we simply stop dreaming of something more and suddenly what was right for our younger selves may no longer be so.
Therefore, this isn’t just a novel about the divorce of parents. It’s also about the complexities and struggles of modern life, and perhaps most of all it’s about embracing life and allowing those around us to do the same.
A Modern Family is published in both eBook and Paperback by Orenda Books.
Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.
About the author
Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.
She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.
You can follow Helga on Twitter at @HelgaFlatland