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Summary

To Nicole and Jamie Maguire, their parents seem the ideal couple - a suburban double act, happily married for more than 30 years. So when Linda and Gerry announce that they've decided to separate, the news sends shockwaves through the siblings' lives, forcing them to confront their own expectations and desires.

Hardworking - and hard-drinking - Nicole, pursues the ex she unceremoniously dumped six years ago, while people-pleasing Jamie fears he's sleepwalking into a marriage he doesn't actually want. But as the siblings grapple with the pressures of thirtysomething life, their parents struggle to protect the fragile façade of their own relationship and the secrets they've both been keeping.

Set in 2018, Claire Powell's beautifully observed debut novel follows each member of the Maguire family over a tumultuous year of lunches, dinners and drinks, as old conflicts arise and relationships are re-evaluated. A gripping yet tender depiction of family dynamics, love and disillusionment, At the Table is about what it means to grow up - both as an individual and as a family.

©2022 Claire Powell (P)2022 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"At the Table is a hugely intelligent, emotionally astute novel about family dynamics, and Claire Powell is an incredible new talent." (Marian Keyes)

"Painfully funny, acutely well-observed, powerfully resonant in its humanity and emotional accuracy. I missed this book whenever I wasn't reading it." (Luke Kennard)

"A brilliant, coruscating depiction of dysfunctional family life. SO astute, on so many levels. I loved it." (Hannah Beckerman)

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A Year in the Life of a Family

Increasingly, I find that I judge the quality of a book by its ability to allow me to step into another person’s shoes; to live (if only for an hour or two) an imaginary existence and to feel the experience to be authentic. By those measures this novel succeeds triumphantly.

It is the story of a year in the life of a normally dysfunctional family: mum, dad and two adult children; and takes each person’s viewpoint in turn through a series of everyday scenes (most of which revolve around food or drink). The drama is small scale but relatable and each chapter alternates viewpoints of different family members - all well voiced by Kristin Atherton.

There is humour but it is generally of the wince inducing variety rather than laugh out loud. There is no grand denouement but the reader is left to feel that each of the characters has moved on to some extent or other over the course of an eventful year. Days after finishing it I still find myself wondering what the characters would be doing now. Highly recommended.

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Eating out, social occasions, some sweet mostly excruciating

Initially difficult to relax into because of the flat narration and endless ‘says’ attributions which are unnecessary as the voices are varied and identifiable. The accents are harsh London, soft Irish or easy Received Pronunciation. Nicole is an interesting character but brash, rude, shouty and she jumps to sometimes sadly wrong conclusions. She seems very real. Her journey through the book is redemptive and ultimately satisfying. Her mother Linda is spiky, pitiful and awkward but totally understandable . Gerry the father is basically good and eventually honest. Nicole’s brother Jamie is tortured and unhappy. I ended up up involved and interested, I felt for all the characters. The succession of meals out were so realistic I felt I was amongst them. A busy listen that kept me intrigued.

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Relatable but dull

A pretty boring story of everyday life that doesn’t even have an ending but just comes to a stop.