Lead review

  • Book: Malibu Rising
  • Location: Malibu
  • Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Set across three decades – to wit the 1960s/70s/80s – this novel examines the dynamics within the Riva family. It is a story of rags to riches and although massive changes occur, the fundamental tenets of dysfunction remain. Can the sins of the parents be visited upon the children? Are family traits so entrenched that they skew relationships across subsequent generations?

June and Mick marry and start to build their family. Mick’s glamorous musical career takes off and his roving eye starts to wander in earnest. Reconciliation is possible but his philandering is out of hand and he abandons everyone for the bright lights, leaving June to manage her brood. Once June falters, the eldest child Nina feels compelled to step in as parent and it is she who essentially raises her younger siblings. She develops a surfing career and makes a name for herself, which means they can now drag themselves out of their impecunious circumstances. Part 1 is the story of family and how it develops, setting out a clear trajectory to the finale, an annual party taking place in August 1983, in the full knowledge that the story will end in some kind of train crash. Who causes it, how it manifests is revealed at the end. Part 2 deals with how the evening evolves.

I read this while incarcerated with Covid and I could really feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. It is a very outdoorsy kind of novel, built around the surfing world which adds frisson and interest. It was refreshing for me to have a reminder of a more carefree environment than seems available at this point in time.

The story is well put together. Yes, there is stardom and fandom but the overriding theme is one of dysfunctional family dynamics that chew up the individuals and affect their lives and relationships. It has something for everyone in it, with characters to both like and admire, and the odd chancer to truly despise.

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