Malachy & His Family by Carlo Gébler - review by Stephen Amidon

Stephen Amidon

Dark Inheritance

Malachy & His Family


Hamish Hamilton 195pp £11.95 order from our bookshop

Carlo Gébler’s fourth novel, Malachy & his Family, is about the bad blood that flows through families from generation to generation, binding them together more securely than love or understanding ever could. His O’Neill clan is like many other suburban households – hardworking, quiet, and continually on the verge of falling apart. Gébler’s short novel is an ambitious attempt to depict the negative fields of attraction at work within a family, the pull they exert on even their most detached and distant members.

Malachy is an aimless, twenty-five-year old American who has discovered that his real father, his mother’s first husband, is an Irishman named John O’Neill who now lives in Hampton Wick. For reasons he can scarcely define, Malachy travels to London to spend a summer with his father, a building contractor and entrepreneur who has prospered in the ‘80s. The meeting between them is strained, full of a silence which continues throughout the novel. Malachy also meets John’s second wife Teresa, a depressive Hungarian emigre, as well as discovering that John has another son, an effete, sarcastic boy who is also named Malachy. Most troubling to Malachy is the discovery that he is strongly attracted to his moody stepsister Eva. Despite some ominous warnings, Malachy moves in with the O’Neills, gradually working his way into the patterns of their life. He accompanies them to pubs, helps with the housework, looks after Grandma’s dog.

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