The Adults by Caroline Hulse - book review

They're all adults... so what could possibly go wrong when a separated couple '“ eager to give their young daughter a '˜normal' family Christmas '“ take along their new partners for a shared weekend away?

Monday, 20th August 2018, 1:11 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 1:15 pm
The Adults by Caroline Hulse
The Adults by Caroline Hulse

Prepare to laugh, smile and cringe as debut novelist Caroline Hulse serves up a tasty dish of simmering resentments, guilty secrets, jealousy and rivalry in a warm, wise and witty tale that explodes into action from the tantalising opening pages.

The Adults is a remarkably perceptive and assured first novel as this fresh and exciting new author casts her eagle eye over the complexity of relationships and comes up with a hilarious comedy of mishaps and misunderstandings that mercilessly zones in on all those familiar fears, flaws and foibles that make us human.

Throw in an imaginary, purple and over-sized toy rabbit called Posey, with his fine line in cynicism, a penchant for silver boots and intrusive persona, and the scene is set for one of 2018’s funniest domestic dramas.

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Claire and Matt have been separated for several years and have agreed that it’s about time their seven-year-old daughter Scarlett enjoyed a ‘normal’ family Christmas with both her parents.

What they can’t agree on is whose idea it was to bring along their new partners to the Happy Forest Holiday Park in North Yorkshire… but someone did and now it’s too late to pull the plug because their lodge has been booked.

Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, a university medical scientist who is funny, smart, and extremely patient. Alex and her man-child Matt have been together for two years and although he can be infuriatingly illogical, she loves the fact that he is ‘respectful and chivalrous’ towards her.

Matt claims that the history between him and his ex is ‘all empty and wipe-clean’ but Alex is not sure and she sets off nervously and somewhat reluctantly with her friend’s warning that she is ‘not right in the head’ ringing in her ears.

Claire, a sensible, down-to-earth solicitor with ‘a whole wall of personality’ brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a divorced barrister with an obsessive desire to complete an Ironman triathlon, and once described by Matt as a man with a ‘black hole of an anti-personality.’

Meanwhile, Scarlett, is bringing her imaginary rabbit Posey with her even though mum has warned her that this is strictly ‘a human weekend’ and she doesn’t want him around all the time.

As the five (or is that six?) of them grit their teeth over Organised Fun activities, drink a little too much after Scarlett’s bedtime and overshare classified secrets, the powder keg holiday ends with a tearful, frightened, emergency call to the police... what on earth could have happened?

Hulse plays out her story through the perspectives of Alex, Patrick and Scarlett as we watch an excess of booze, uncomfortably close proximity, and events from the past wreak havoc on a weekend of hidden insecurities and revelations.

The Adults is an unflinching and exquisitely observed portrait of seemingly civil adult relationships descending into tension, farce, embarrassment and acrimony as the joint holiday becomes a ticking time bomb of recrimination and revenge.

Clever, perceptive and wickedly funny, this is a holiday-from-hell extravaganza not to be missed!

(Orion, hardback, £14.99)