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The White Family

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  217 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
“Outstanding . . . tender, sexy and alarming.”—Jim Crace

When Alfred White, patriarch of the White family, collapses at work, his wife, May, and their three disparate children find themselves confronting issues they would rather ignore. Maggie Gee skillfully weaves a narrative that reminds us that racism not only devastates the lives of its victims, but also those of its pe
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Saqi Books (first published 2002)
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This is what otherwise might be known as a kitchen sink drama and it deals with a ‘normal’ family and humdrum everyday life as subject matter. All of this then might make this book seem ordinary and unremarkable – on the contrary though, the characterisation and narrative are superb and this book is a mini-masterpiece that concentrates on the banality and pains of everyday life. Maggie Gee is indeed an exquisite writer and no wonder this book was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction way ...more
Oct 09, 2010 Darryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alfred White is nearing the end of his 50 year career as a park keeper in a fictional London neighborhood in which he has lived for his entire life. He and his wife May have three children: Darren, a famed but restless journalist with a quick temper; Shirley, who has irked her parents by marrying a black African and dating a black Briton of Jamaican descent after her husband's death; and Dirk, the youngest sibling, whose small size and smaller ambitions mark him as a failure compared to his ...more
Oct 24, 2012 Hannah rated it it was amazing
I don't know what to say about this book. You should read it though. Most certainly.

I think that every person will have a different experience when they read, because each of us will identify and connect with characters differently. To a certain extent, their will be one who we understand above all the others - something about their experiences will line up with our own. And their will be a character you can't stand (maybe multiple), though I feel their will be a more generalised feeling towards
Nov 30, 2013 Miranda rated it really liked it
Just made it into my four star category - I wasn't a huge fan of the quick-spanning descriptions of characters and their lives, yet I was still drawn into the people and centrally, their values and beliefs that Gee presents. I particularly admired how 'grey' her depictions of the characters were: assumptions are challenged, 'good' and 'bad' aren't really there. Instead what I found were subtle complexities that drew me in.
Aug 16, 2012 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2012
I found this book relatively unpleasant company and not good enough in itself to justify the unpleasantness. I thought the characters were pretty flat and sterotyped.
Aug 10, 2012 Pat rated it liked it
This is the story of the White family. Alfred, the father, is a bigoted tyrant in his home and a long-time, proud London park keeper who abides by all the rules. May, his wife of many years, is devoted to Alfred and never interfered with his brutal treatment of their three children, who are now all grown and carrying the emotional scars he inflicted. When Alfred is facing death, he seems to regret the damage he inflicted on his children, and we are left to wonder how different their lives would ...more
Safron Mitchelson
Jul 02, 2011 Safron Mitchelson rated it liked it
The Whites are an ordinary family: love, hatred, sex and death hold them together, and tear them apart. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Alfred White, a London park keeper, still rules his home with fierce conviction and inarticulate tenderness. May, his clever, passive wife, loves Alfred but conspired against him. Their three children are no longer close; the successful elder son, Darren, has escaped to the USA. When Alfred collapses on duty, his beautiful, childless daughter ...more
Meirav Berale
I felt this novel deals very very well with the issue of racism - showing different levels of it, different aspects, different ways in which it is expressed. While Alfred's wife doesn't see herself as racist, her immediate reaction when she falls in the street and a black man comes over to help her up is a reaction of fear, because deep down she believes black people are dangerous - she's heard her husband talk about them and has absorbed that thinking. And their son has absorbed it and takes it ...more
Mark Speed
Nov 08, 2014 Mark Speed rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this novel. The author's writing about a white working-class family and I'm not sure she gets it quite right. The characters aren't fully formed - you might say that it's a stereotyping that that's the sort of error racists make. And this is a book about racism.

I think it's more topical now than it was when it was published, or when I read it. I had the privilege of speaking with the author about it. At that time she was updating it. When I asked her about her motivation she
Aug 30, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
Maggie Gee's The White Family is a seminal treatment of the issues of race and class in early 21st century Britain. Telling the story from the white (White) family's point of view - bigoted father, passive mother, financially successful older son, fierce and lonely daughter whose now-dead husband and present lover are both black, and, most notably, the confused racist youngest son - lends a critical depth and pathos to the very personal and experiential character of racism. While paying no court ...more
Tomi Adenekan
Feb 17, 2016 Tomi Adenekan rated it really liked it
The Whites are a working class British family of 5, 'headed' by racist and homophobic Alfred. When his only daughter, Shirley, set up home with a Ghanian (not white!), he was horrified! But manages to smile again when Koi died. But who did Shirley date next? Darren, the first son, escaped to America while Dirk stayed at home. Dirk is spoilt, with an unjustified sense of entitlement that could only lead to dissappointment. He's more racist and homophobic than his father and combined with a potent ...more
Jayne Charles
Nov 03, 2014 Jayne Charles rated it liked it
This book focuses on a single family to examine attitudes to race and homosexuality in society. There are dramatic events, but these take a back seat to the examination of individual attitudes and motivations. It felt odd to have such polarised attitudes within a single family, but on an individual basis the characters felt real. In particular the patriarch – Alfred the park-keeper - rang true. Park keepers come from a bygone era and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one, yet I could picture ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
The White Family is very well written, it deals with many modern racial taboos that most people would usually turn a blind eye to. This book fascinated me even though the genre isn't one I would necessarily look for. This book is well worth a read, and it has opened my eyes to certain racial prejudices. I would definitely recommend this book to those who wish to explore the world of racial discrimination.
Jan 14, 2011 Lilla rated it liked it
A story about the dark side of a family. Characters are complex and stupid at the same time but all feelings are deeply and well analised.
It's not a great book but I think it's good to reflect on human nature. I'm not referring only to the racism theme(that, in my opinion, is faced in the right way: the author don't say what's right but let you faced up the ugly truth) but also to relationships in general, to frustration, violence and all kind of subjugation.
Sep 01, 2014 Parita rated it it was ok
Interesting subject, but Gee's pace of story telling kills it. Honestly, I couldnt even complete it! It felt like the the twist or the core of the story was just around the corner (or maybe just around in the turn of a page, in this case), but I never really got to it. I admit that something did keep getting me back to the book, but in the end, I simply ran out of patience.
May 13, 2013 Juliette rated it it was amazing
multiple points of view work to build story with subtle, insightful depth and texture - moves in and out of 1st/3rd person narrative with amazing skill and sensitivity. an impressive study of contemporary UK race relations that tells it how it is from the inside...and I cried at the end! recommended.
3.5 stars really. Generally powerful, with a real feel for her characters and their complexities - not all good, or all bad, but rather shades of grey. However, I found the 'neat' linking together of all the stories to be a little too convenient, detracting from what was otherwise a fairly compelling and interesting read.
Aug 20, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Wow. Depressing but also strangely uplifting. Cleverly written so that the central protagonist, a racist old man who is dying of cancer, elicits a degree of sympathy from the reader despite his highly unpleasant views. A sad indictement of society in some ways but also a well written family saga. Parts of the ending were a little too convenient but otherwise flawless writing. Highly recommended.
Jul 18, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Maggie Gee certainly knows how to create believable characters, and then to manipulate the reader so that sympathy waxes and wanes as different facets are revealed. Her observation is exceptional and this a wholly satisfying - if uncomfortable - tale.
Morag Gillespie
Mar 26, 2013 Morag Gillespie rated it really liked it
Overall an enjoyable book. As it looks at each member of the family you understand a little more about the family dynamic and what brought them to where they are now. Able to make you feel disappointed, dislike people and still feel hope and happiness in others. Worth a read.
Jul 22, 2009 Martinxo rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, 2009
This should have been a good book but was let down by the somewhat clichéd writing and lacklustre characters. Gave up after 40 pages. Should I have soldiered on? No, there are far too many other GOOD books out there, I haven't the time for so-so stuff.
Tracey  Wilde
Aug 21, 2009 Tracey Wilde rated it liked it
I enjoyed this but enjoyed My Cleaner more. It had more humour. This was a bit sad. Mainly about family relationships and how each person and their actions is perceived by the others. Very interesting read.
Katie Lumsden
Apr 23, 2016 Katie Lumsden rated it really liked it
A brutal and hard-hitting examination of racism in 21st century London - this is a very difficult and troubling read, but is powerfully and beautifully written throughout.
Aug 14, 2012 Colin rated it really liked it
Well written but really didn't like the tone of the book, and although there was some closure, I found it all far too depressing.
Gillian Black
it started off well but got a bit boring in the middle. Themes were a bit heavy and I felt sorry for the family that they all were so disjointed from each other.
Christine Magee
Christine Magee rated it really liked it
Dec 04, 2015
Karen rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2013
Fiona rated it liked it
Feb 01, 2015
Helda rated it liked it
Jan 23, 2016
Rachel Connor
Rachel Connor rated it really liked it
Sep 22, 2012
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Maggie Gee is an English novelist. She was born in Poole, Dorset, then moved to the Midlands and later to Sussex. She was educated at state schools and at Oxford University (MA, B Litt). She later worked in publishing and then had a research post at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where she completed the department's first PhD. She has written eleven novels and a collection of short stories, and was the ...more
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