Life on other planets

In search of Great-Aunt Pearl’s will: a black comedy of familial strife

Lendal Press has found a brilliant novelist in Matt Cook: funny, shrewd, satirical, disturbingly and entertainingly analytical in his psychology of character. This debut novel is narrated by a precocious 14-year-old, Benjamin Carter, whose family on his father’s side is having a collective nervous breakdown. Great-Aunt Pearl has died; her derelict house, ‘a riot of mould and malfunction’, must be sold for the benefit of family members, but first, within the chaotic mess, they must find her will. Cook is master of the judicious turn of phrase. His imagination is detailed and original: Aunt Sally is the family’s ‘loveable, hopeless doormat’ who, when she blushes, looks like ‘a miserable pomegranate’;