Book review: A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 Permalink

British writer Sophie Hannah was recently described by the Independent as “an author with an extraordinary imagination, working at the height of her powers…”

And that’s very true. With over a dozen books under her belt she can be relied on to deliver a head-spinning thriller. And her latest, A Game for All the Family certainly had me captivated from the start. 

The blurb

After escaping London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine plans to spend her days doing as little as possible in her beautiful home in Devon. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody’s been expelled – there is, and was, no George.

Then the anonymous calls start: a stranger, making threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past and a guilty secret – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big and one small, to fit a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety. If the police can’t help, she’ll have to eliminate the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be…

a game for all the family

My thoughts

Justine also finds a few pages of a story Ellen’s writing for a school assignment. She’s bewildered as—though it seems to be set in the past—the (somewhat macabre) events take place in their new house, and Ellen’s come up with obscure character names and a plot which is so eerie it might be true. But is it?

When we first meet the family they’re enroute to their new life. And they’re happy. All three obviously have a wonderful relationship—as a whole and with each other individually… they’re the perfect family.

Which is why Justine and her husband Alex believe Ellen when it comes to George, despite their daughter’s secretive behaviour and all evidence to the contrary. And (as I read so many books where family members aren’t what they seem) it was heart-warming to see the level of trust on offer.

We start to wonder if George’s existence (or otherwise), the phone calls and the story unfolding in Ellen’s school assignment are linked. Nothing makes sense and Justine and Alex can’t think of anyone who’d want to harm them.

It’s hard to say too much more without giving elements of the plot away but—for the most part—I was riveted. I connected with Justine, Alex and Ellen and the book was well-written and paced. I was finalising a monthly ‘best reads’ post and put it on hold to finish this book as I’d decided it needed to be included.

But then came the conclusion… and I was disappointed. I understood the motive behind what was happening but think Hannah overcomplicated things. It (ultimately) didn’t make sense feel particularly feasible and I finished the book with a lot of unanswered questions.

So, it didn’t make my ‘August faves’ list after all and while it was a good read, it could have been a great read.

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah was published in Australia by Hachette and released on 25 August 2015.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

  • Emma
    September 1, 2015

    I have enjoyed most of Soohie Hannah’s books. This sounds more like a ghost story than thriller but could be wrong. Would definitely give it a go despite potentially dodgy ending.

    • Debbish
      September 2, 2015

      Emma I think my problem is that it really didn’t go down either path. Hannah hedged her bets a little I felt and – although I loved most of it – I was let down a little by the end.

  • Red Iza
    September 2, 2015

    You had me interested, I may not read that book but I’d love to try another one by this author. Do you have any suggestion ?…

    • Debbish
      September 2, 2015

      I reviewed her previous novel (The Telling Error) last year Izabel, you might prefer it…

      • Red Iza
        September 2, 2015

        Duly noted, thanks 😉

  • Jess
    September 3, 2015

    Interesting I hate being disappointed at the end though. Sounds like she could have done a lot more with this one!

    • Debbish
      September 4, 2015

      I definitely think so but I haven’t read a lot of other reviews… perhaps it’s just me?!

  • Trish @ Between My Lines
    September 6, 2015

    I was more let down by the ending of the book within the book. I did really enjoy it and couldn’t stop reading it but I agree the ending could have been smoother. I still loved it though!

    • Debbish
      September 6, 2015

      Same. I still devoured it but had hoped for more!

  • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
    November 24, 2017

    I’ve come to this book two years too late and hated it. I didn’t connect with any characters and yes, the ending was way too far-fetched for me. I love Hannah’s mysteries especially the Spilling ones. I want her to go back to those; they are awesome characters with great plots. This one for me was a mess.

    • Debbish
      November 25, 2017

      I’ve been a bit mixed in my appreciation of Hannah I must admit Sanch. I was quite disappointed in her Hercule Poirot re-imagining The Closed Casket.

    • Keri
      January 22, 2019

      Totally agree. A real page turner for the most part .. but I’m reflection that was my attempt to make some sense of it .. wait for the real story to begin ! And then the realisation that the book was no more than a complete twist and turn of nonsense with an ending that really made think I’d just wasted my time !!

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