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Book Box: Booker Prize contenders

The precarity of a family is given a relentless dissection here by Irish novelist Paul Murray, as he finds various ways to make four members of the Barnes family squirm, creating an operatic tragedy in which there are moments of suspense, although there is also too much melodrama.

In a small Irish town, Cass, preparing for university, enjoys the carefree life of being rich.

Her greatest – and increasingly only – obsession is her friendship with narcissistic classmate Elaine, until the financial crash scuppers her father’s motor business and her mother, a local beauty, is forced to sell her clothes online.

Cass’ 12-year-old brother, PJ, is disturbed by the deteriorating relationship between father Dickie and mother Imelda, and attempts to fix things well beyond his capacity to understand.

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