Melanie Hobson’s Summer Cannibals is a vibrant, vicious family portrait ... The family fascinates. Their story is compelling, and each member woos their listeners to regard the others as they do—effectively enough, until the vantage switches again. The audience is forced to shift alliances repeatedly as the girls’ first day home shifts into the second, with more backstory revealed, and as the story hurtles toward the father’s garden tour and its aftermath ... By turns darkly comical and horrifying, Summer Cannibals holds attention.
Hobson’s debut novel is packed with complex relationships and a torrent of emotions as she lifts the highly composed veil from a seemingly put-together, affluent family and brilliantly exposes the lust and betrayal behind their palatial walls. The intricacies of Hobson’s characters and her exceptional new voice will keep readers riveted.
Summer Cannibals’s sluggish first half is all foreboding ... Hobson empowers Margaret as a witchy femme fatale, but her supposed villainy at the expense of her daughters is hardly tantamount to David’s unconflicted savagery and egotism. Casting her manipulation as a counterweight to David’s depravity has the unfortunate effect of conflating a vengeful woman with a hysterical rapist ... Hobson is most impressive when her omniscient narrator executes naturalist depiction, tacitly suggesting that the domestic atrocities of Summer Cannibals are another function of brutal biologies ... Even with its ridiculous S&M politics, Summer Cannibals is governed by such a straight-faced sensibility that it’s a rather humorless affair ... With its timely satire of sex and manners, Summer Cannibals inverts the beach read by promising a lusty domestic romp which in fact houses something much darker. But its brutality and antipathetic characters result in foggy resolutions ... As broadstroke commentary on the nature of patriarchy, however, Hobson’s debut is by turns riveting and resonant.
None of the major characters in the novel are kind, or noble; none of them act out of motivations more virtuous than self-interest. For nearly 300 pages, they repeatedly and grotesquely collide with each other and with their own histories. As a reader, it may be difficult to look away ... Hobson’s achievement here is in setting up these personalities to entwine with and oppose each other so naturally ... This is a psychological novel, and it moves glacially, examining every motion and spoken word in exhaustive detail, drawing past injustices to the fore constantly. This isn’t a negative quality for some, but Summer Cannibals will infuriate readers with no interest in microscopic depictions of family dysfunction ... How willing the reader is to keep going through all this depends on her taste for melodrama. Hobson continues to ratchet the stakes upward ... By and large, the writing is well-tuned and graceful, if unadorned ... Also, the juiciness of this story, with its Gothic overtones and symbolism, keeps it engaging. However, the conclusion is a major misstep: the book simply ends, nearly epiphany-free, smothering out some of its fires but supplying more oxygen to others. Hobson offers little real closure.
Hobson’s prose is languid throughout, like she’s not rushing anything, but rest assured there’s a story—a few stories, actually—to tell. The novel is told through all five family members’ perspectives, which I found really enjoyable. Instead of getting one character’s version of the truth, you get everyone’s, and then are left to piece it together as best you can—much like how actual family secrets are shared. Overall, I have to say, it’s fun to read about people behaving badly, and this novel is nothing if not entertaining. Tolstoy taught us 'every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Hobson gives the phrase new life with this lot.
Summer Cannibals is sharply observed, its realism contrasted with gothic, even surreal touches. Hobson tells her tale of a family coming together and apart with psychological insight and acerbic wit, a combination that recalls some of the toxic families in novels by Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. Readers might not love the Blackfords, but they’ll find it hard to look away from their bad behavior.
We've seen this type of dysfunctional family before, but first novelist Hobson refreshes the trope in a family psychodrama that upends the old stereotype that all Canadians are bland and inoffensive ... Over the course of a disastrous weekend in August, family secrets come to light and tensions reach a boiling point, as a darkly comic garden tour from hell brings disturbing strangers into the mix ... Hobson draws a riveting picture of twisted family dynamics in this compulsively readable novel.
In Hobson’s scattershot debut, three grown sisters—Georgina, Jax, and Pippa—converge on their troubled parents’ waterfront mansion along the banks of Lake Ontario ... the plot starts to seem like a few bad marriages too many ... the novel tips into melodramatic territory ... Though occasionally evocative, the writing isn’t precise or particular enough to sustain interest in the novel’s various scandalous threads. The stately house at the center of the novel exerts a profound hold on its characters, one that never fully grabs the reader.
Hobson’s narrative is calm even when her consideration of individual characters is interrupted by flashes of wild revelation or event ... In the novel’s surreal, sexually avid, sometimes fairy-tale world, such extremes might shock, or else might appear to be false starts, keeping the reader off balance within a teetering landscape. A tale of scorching family dysfunction that ranges among the gothic, domestic, and carnal, snagging the reader's attention with its odd, unpredictable vision.