Welcome to my stop on the Grown Ups blog tour! Huge thanks to Pushkin Press for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date: 03/06/2021
Length: 160 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Translated Fiction
Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and struggling with a feeling of panic as she realises her chances of motherhood are rapidly falling away from her. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs – but tries to put a pause on these worries as she heads out to the seaside family cabin for her mother’s 65th birthday. That is, until some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets old tensions simmering, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, and her entire family.
Exhilarating, funny, and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups gets up close and personal with a dysfunctional modern family.
I really love books that just provide a brief snapshot into the lives of ordinary people, so when I heard about this book of 40 year-old Ida struggling to come to terms that life as a ‘grown up’ isn’t what she imagined it immediately connected with me and I jumped at the chance to be part of this tour.
Whilst I am not in my 40s, I do recognise and relate to how Ida was feeling in regards to feeling left behind by your peers. Throughout the novella, Aubert skillfully navigates the difficulties of what it means to be a ‘grown up’ even when you believe you’re failing as one. I really liked Ida when we were first introduced to her, I thought she was logical and blunt, yet vulnerable. However, as we begin to spend more time with her through the novella we get to see that there is a much different, less likeable, side to her too, one which is insecure, paranoid and jealous. It’s incredible how Aubert manages to develop Ida in such a complex way in the matter of a few pages. The different side of her creeps up and it’s incredibly impressive how Ida can say or do something and then, just a couple of pages later, she will say or do the same thing yet it feels completely different.
The way the family dynamic was crafted was incredibly interesting, it’s clear that there is years of tension and history between them all before we even find out about certain aspects of the family. All of the adults seemed to have some kind of issue that made the family dynamic dysfunctional as a whole, but still believable, and I’m sure a lot of people would be able to relate to an aspect of this. I really liked seeing Ida and her sister, Marthe, interact with each other – it was very difficult to work out if their rivalry (of sorts) was an ordinary sibling relationship or if it went deeper than that. There are times where it is clear one way or another, but I enjoyed how it wasn’t always immediately obvious.
Although, on the surface, this novella is a snapshot into a family getaway to celebrate their mother’s 65th birthday, it quickly becomes clear that it isn’t the focus at all. Instead of a family celebration we witness unsettling interactions between characters, which can become dangerous. Additionally, Aubert expertly illustrates the different pressures put on women by society when it comes to the idea of a family unit and a woman’s purpose. Which calls into question whether Ida truly wants to be a mother or if she simply doesn’t want to be lonely.
Overall, this was a really poignant read with humour and drama scattered amongst the pages. The length of the novella makes it a perfect Sunday morning read which can gently open your eyes to the complexities of family, and leave you slightly raw at the brutal honesty of it all too.