Sorry. This review contains a mini spoiler but I couldn't work out how to hide it so if you don't want any giveaway info you'd better ignore this one. However if you are continuing to read, thanks.
Having read this for my local bookclub meeting this evening I am not quite sure what I would want to say. It seems to me that Sarah Winman is not quite sure what she is writing. Is it the story of family relationship both 'nuclear ' and extended, is it a treatise on gay relationships, is it an account of a brother and sister growing to adulthood across the latter part of the 20th Century and of course all of these can be totally harmoniously co-joined and indeed they are but the story comes off its rails because of the bizarre and unreasonable loading up of accidents of chance and fantasy as it goes on.
When two of the characters,one of whom is besotted with the other, having been apart for years and having had no contact whatsoever, suddenly meet up at a party on another continent from the one in which they had originally met I immediately thought ' of all the parties in all the world you had to walk into one of mine'. I do appreciate that chance and co-incidence often plays an important part in love and romance but this grated as unbelievable. When the father, having all the time been banking on winning a large prize, does just that I thought unbelievable. When another character supposedly knew the time and manner of his death, a falling coconut,and at one point the very act happened but served not to kill him but to restore his sight I thought unbelievable. I could go on but though there is a good deal of really funny dialogue and some witty descriptions I found the overall affect dubious.
Winman addresses beautifully the questions of love, fidelity, expectation and the ability of friendship whether sexually expressed or platonic to enhance and transform but i do wish she had written in a way that did not rely upon, in my opinion, a regular need to massively suspend if not belief then the over the top coincidence quotient. This story could have been written without them and in that way the story would not have been so much of an obvious novel. I found the characters endearing, maddening, stupid and amusing but they always remained obvious characters in a story. I never felt moved to believe in their independant existence which is bizarre since they were theoretically growing up as I was and their journey should have been mine