Plumb siblings Melody, Jack and Beatrice are leaning against an open door. The person who unlocked it? Their eldest brother, Leo. After his reprehensible behaviour, after the lawyers, the resultant medical bills, after rehab, The Nest is no longer the juicy trust fund left by their father that the Plumbs have been spending against for years. Can Leo put things right? Can his brothers and sisters afford for him not to? When it comes to pointing the finger of blame, who will each family member choose?
I discover that I’m surprised to say it’s a sympathetic book. Given the premise I might have expected a far less likeable slice of humanity. Don’t let me mislead you, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney presents us with the wholly believable button-pushing, nought-to-raving-mad-in-ten-seconds interchanges that surely lurk beneath the skin of any sibling. There’s the scheming and the sniping. There’s the sense of entitlement The Nest engenders – expressly the opposite of what Daddy Plumb intended. Then there are the friends and acquaintances, the other halfs and all the attendant allegiances that come into play in any social circle. There’s something very Evelyn Waugh about the hurtling descent of those early chapters. But as those layers peel back and we see the anxieties, the everyday fears, the pressures that warp the logic, it’s the sympathy that comes through. Granted, with some characters it takes longer than others, but it’s definitely there. Ultimately, it’s the thing that makes a novel about getting more than you deserve – though it’s less than you expected – an uplifting experience. I’d almost be tempted to speculate that Cynthia is a romantic at heart. She’s got a keen eye for the one-liner, too. There are some great funny moments that hinge on the timing of the delivery.
While the book rests on a great premise (one that could almost be reduced to the essence of fiction: take a group of people and into each life introduce conflict) I think it’s the characters that really make it. Right from the off there’s a bad taste in the mouth, a sense that the siblings will be easy to dislike: the early scheming; the drawing up of battle plans; the individual outrage masquerading as a united front. But as their lives unfold, as those necessary interactions develop it’s not possible to hold on to that first fleeting impression. It’s the particular joy of a book, and especially of a good book that we can take the time to get to know people that in real life we’d probably run a mile from.
I confess I don’t know what it is about Melody’s twins, Nora and Louisa, that makes them my favourite but they definitely are. There’s something so tender, so brittle and yet so strong about that dynamic it just makes me smile. The scene in Uncle Jack’s room is a truly beautiful thing.
With summer around the corner and that week in the sun beckoning you’d do well to put The Nest on your reading list. It’s a story to get lost in with a broad cast of characters you can’t fail to get behind.
The Nest is published by Borough Press on 19th May 2016 ISBN:9780008184100
You can find Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney on Twitter @CynthiaDSweeney or at her website Cynthia-sweeney.com
My thanks to Cassie at Borough Press for allowing me to review this book