Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Tricks of the mind: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory


Spoonbenders is a quirky and amusing novel about a dysfunctional family of psychics and con artists. The Telemachus family—Teddy and Maureen and their three children—were a national sensation until the day they went on television and were less than magical. Twenty years after their fall from grace, grandson Matty discovers that he has some psychic powers like his family, and finds himself caught up in the middle on the ongoing family drama as they fight for money, power, and love.

The novel is told from the perspective of the main members of the family, jumping back and forth to show their different abilities and priorities. This gives it the classic feel of an intergenerational novel, with family secrets and troubles being hidden and revealed. The hijinks and troubles with the government, with the local mob, and with each other are amusing, but also carry the level of threat of a gangster story or similar to keep narrative tension. The writing is straightforward and Gregory carefully withholds small details and reveals them with dramatic or casual effect. Unsurprisingly, the characters are larger than life, especially charismatic trickster Teddy and outsider son Buddy, and their complex family relationships give the novel a fun humanity akin to any family drama.

Spoonbenders feels like a Wes Anderson film written down. It is imaginative and enjoyable, a great light read with some decent stakes and a combination of real powers and tricks.

Quick book picks for July

Need a holiday read? Something to settle down with outside when the sun actually shines? Or an excuse to stay in and protect yourself from the rays? Here are some of my favourite books being published in July (click on the titles for full reviews). Expect tense friendships, exposure of class differences, and eccentric tales of unusual characters.

  • How To Stop Time by Matt Haig – Highly anticipated new book by Matt Haig about the perils of immortality when you’re an anxious overthinker.
  • Watling Street by John Higgs – History, anecdotes, politics, and society are all covered in this book about the famous Roman road running across England and Wales. Endearing popular history.
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory – Like a Wes Anderson film in book form, this is the story of a family of psychics and con artists who want to restore their good name. An enchanting summer read.
  • The Party by Elizabeth Day – A gripping novel about the dark sides of privilege, exposing career politicians and the licences of the rich whilst telling a story of a lifelong yet unequal friendship and its secrets.
  • The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – A historical novel about a journey into Peru in the nineteenth-century with an unlikely friendship at its core and a look at understanding others’ beliefs.
  • The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen – When old and privileged childhood friends end up together on a Greek island, their lives and relationships start to unravel. A tense and ominous literary thriller.
  • Hings by Chris McQueer – Provocative, hilarious, and darkly surreal short stories focused on working class Scotland, everyday life, and the mundane mixed with the downright weird. Far too enjoyable.