Happy Family by James Ellis

A quirky and humorous take on how we define ourselves


The blurb

Set in the near future, Happy Family is a darkly humorous tale about the filters and frames we use to shield ourselves from reality, and what might happen should we discard them. Germaine Kiecke was a foundling, an orphan, brought up by the infamous ‘Motherhood’ in a Belgian orphanage. Now she is a successful art academic who defines herself by her profession and prefers to experience the world through art and an augmented reality game called Happy Family. But when the artist Tom Hannah, the creative force behind Happy Family, moves to Spain, surrounds himself with high walls, three large guard dogs called Harpo, Chico and Groucho, and a runaway who teaches him to think like a tree, his existential melt-down threatens all Germaine holds dear. She is forced to re-engage with life and travels to Spain to try to make things right. Along the way she meets people who are also, for one reason or another, dependent on Tom’s fictional world to augment their own ‘real’ lives.

The Review

On the face of it, this is a book about virtual reality, but actually that only makes up a really small part of this story. What it's really about, is what defines us as people. Tom Hannah has dedicated his life to his art, the very art that lies behind the 'Happy Family' game. But he's decided that he no longer wants to be defined by this. And so we begin on an odyssey of a story when Germaine, determined to get a final interview with Hannah, travels to see him, whether he wants to meet with her or not.

The best bit about this book is the characters. There is a whole horde of absolute odd balls that make up the cast, each with their own unique sub plot. They are all eccentric in their own ways and half the fun of this book is in keeping up with their antics.

This was much less sci-fi than I expected it to be and much more character driven. It was interesting to learn about the worlds that people will indulge in to escape their own realities. A lot of the time it's quite tongue in cheek but there are definitely some deeper issues running through this book and as well as making you smile with its warmth and silliness, it will make you think. Plus, the cover is excellent!

Happy Family was released on 6th February 2020 by Unbound

Big thanks to @annecater at Random things tours, for organising and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. This is my honest and unbiased opinion.

About the author:

Norwich, UK

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