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Susan Minot: Monkeys

This is really a collection of stories but they are all about the Vincent family so it counts as a novel. The parents are Gus and Rosie (née O’Dare) and they have seven children, Caitlin, Sophie, Delilah, Augustus (Gus), Sherman, Chase (Chicky) and Miranda (Minnie). Gus Senior is old school Boston, a banker, yacht club member and heavy drinker. His coldness can be seen when, in one of the stories called Hiding, they all decide to hide from him when he comes home, expecting him to look for them. However, when he returns home and sees no-one, he goes and watches a football game on TV, ignoring his hiding family. This difference between the cold father and the warm, passionate mother is one of the understated but key parts of the novel. Most of the stories are seen through the eyes of Sophie. The key event is the death of Rosie, killed when a train hit her car but this event is only seen in the past. We do not see it happening and, indeed, are somewhat surprised to learn that it has. In the story called Accident which tells of Sherman’s car accident, hitting a hydrant when he is drunk, the death of Rosie is mentioned casually as something in the past. Only in the final story does the family scatter the ashes and it is this individual scattering of the ashes that finally brings them together. Minot tells the stories well, with each family member coming out as an individual and the unspoken feelings between this essentially unemotional family being superbly portrayed.

Publishing history

First published 1986 by Dutton