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The Mussel Feast – Brigit Vanderbeke. Reviewed by Banana Girl (11)

Revolutions can start in many ways. Just one thing different, just one thing astray, and everything can change. Little things such as being late.

A family sits down to supper, waiting for their father to come home from his business trip, his promotion practically in the bag. A plate of mussels sits in front of them on the table. The family only have mussels on special occasions. And this is a very special occasion. Yet not as they  might have expected. As the evening wears on, and the father still does not turn up, you see the family’s problems that are tearing them apart.

As the story unravels, the reader realises that what seems like a perfectly innocent family, with a hardworking father turns into a wife and two children being bullied by their tyrannical father. Everything they do is for him – the children get horribly sunburnt to impress him. Even the mussels are for him – the others don’t care for them much. In a way I feel sorry for the father – he had a hard life from when he was young, and just wanted a perfect family. But he didn’t realise, that for a family to be perfect, they need to be imperfect.

This book takes place over one evening, yet I felt by the end that I knew the family really well. Nothing much actually happens, everything is merely in the daughters thoughts and memories. But by the end, the Mother and her two children are all agreed on one thing – things have to change.

This story was originally a German classic, but has been translated by a company called Peirene. I sympathised with all the characters but the father – they were being made to be people they were not, and this was done through verbal abuse and violence.

This is actually an adult book, but I really enjoyed it and I am sure readers my age would too!




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