Review: At The Table – Claire Powell

What an accomplished debut novel this is. It is set across the space of a year and features the Maguire family, mum Linda, dad Gerry and their grown up children Nicole and Jamie. Every scene is set around a meal or drinks of some kind and in the opening, the family gather to celebrate Linda’s birthday only to be told the news that Linda and Gerry have separated. Their children are appalled – their parents are not supposed to have emotional crises, not when both Nicole and Jamie are having their own crises.

The children are each fairly ghastly in their way, especially Nicole who was just the kind of person I would usually avoid, especially as a work colleague. Jamie, on the other hand, needs a good kick up the backside: spineless and irritating. Jamie can’t decide what to do as his wedding approaches and he is still unsure if he wants to get married. Added to that is his attraction to someone at work and, oh you can tell where this is going.

Although I imagine the news of your parents splitting up would be distressing at any age, there is a point where you do just want the children to act just a little more like adults. But then it wouldn’t be as entertaining a read.

Each character is really well drawn, with their many flaws still not completely obliterating the fact that they are not total monsters, they are just normal people with issues. In many cases I couldn’t help judging them as I felt like many of these issues are caused by alcohol: by the end my liver felt pickled and I’m not drinking at the moment.

I know nothing about Claire Powell’s background but she is able to articulate insight and emotional depth into all her characters, and the book is driven by these characters coming a cropper and having to work themselves out. As a reader, you do realise an emotional car crash is coming way ahead of the characters themselves which I found very entertaining. And I really liked the structure of using the meals or drinks as the frame.

An astute well written book.

At The Table is published by LittleBrown on 31 March 2022, priced £14.99. Thanks to LittleBrown and Netgalley for my advance copy.

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