Francesca Segal’s second novel is exuberant and entertainingby Matthew Adams / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal (Chatto & Windus, £14.99)
Francesca Segal’s exuberant and entertaining second novel is concerned with the nature of filial and parental responsibility. It addresses this question by telling the stories of four characters who, when the story opens, form two familial units that are attempting to become one. Julia Alden is a widow who lives in north London with her teenage daughter, Gwen. James Fuller is an attractive American doctor who has a teenage son by the name of Nathan.
James and Julia have recently embarked on a relationship. Julia feels that James is “all she’d never dared to want” and has invited her new love and his son to share the family home. His arrival, she feels, might transform her calamitous life. But Gwen and Nathan have other ideas. They have difficulty accepting the new parental figures in their lives, and subject one another to endless quarrels and needling.
When we encounter Segal’s cast at the start of the book, we find them in a state of pyrotechnic conflict as they prepare for a trip to America. Yet over the course of their stay in Boston, the relationship between Gwen and Nathan begins to thaw. Happiness beckons. Until one day Gwen confronts Julia with a devastating revelation: “Nathan and I are together.”
The rest of the narrative then considers how the competing needs and duties of its four main characters can be met, handled and resolved. It does so with brio, insight and empathy, and with carefully modulated comic energy. These qualities result in a work that offers a wise and enlarging apprehension of the challenges involved in attempting to live well for each other and ourselves, and of the forms of awkwardness that visit all of our lives as we age.