Mel's Online Book Club: The Generation Game By Sophie Duffy

Posted at 00:58am on 31st October 2012

Titles are important to me. As an author I find it necessary to choose a title I can work to: one that defines the theme of the book I’m writing. As a reader, I look to see how those themes unfold.

When one of the members of my real-time Book Club suggested that we read The Generation Game - a debut novel by Sophie Duffy - I took it that the title was simply reflective of the era in which the book is set. For those who are unfamiliar with the phrase, The Generation Game was the title of a TV game show which was very popular in the ‘70’s. But Miss Duffy’s choice of title was more profound than I imagined.


In recounting the story of her dysfunctional family and the mother who abandoned her, the protagonist, ‘fat’ Philippa is addressing her own baby, also born out of wedlock. The generation game might, therefore, be described as the repetitive self-fulfilment of ‘the sins of the father’ being passed down from generation to generation - per Jeffrey Archer’s novel of the same name.
Discussion in my real-time Book Club focused on the bygone stigma of sex outside marriage, and the huge cultural change that was ushered in with the advent of the Pill. Much is made of the dysfunctional family in twenty-first century civilisation, with blame laid at the door of single-parent families. Yet has human behaviour really undergone much in the way of radical transformation we asked ourselves? Isn’t this way of thinking more a case of mindset, with two-parent families producing just as many problems? If you have views on this, do leave our comments below. 


The Generation Game was published as the result of it having won the Luke Bitmead Writer’s Bursary in 2011. It was an engaging story which, without being maudlin, accurately and endearingly portrayed the angst and insecurity of childhood and adolescence. If I have one criticism, it is the lack of setting. Although parts of Torquay were mentioned by name, little was made of the dramatic landscape. Where an accomplished author might draw upon the descriptive power of a storm at sea, or the soft rolling hills surrounding Torbay to portray mood and ambience, Sophie Duffy left me, at times, with the feeling that her story was floating in a no-man’s land.


Humour abounds throughout the book. And although, early on I found the style of wit slightly irritating, I was soon far too engrossed in the shenanigans of Helena, Bob, Bernie and Auntie Sheila to notice. Unusually, for me, I was gratifyingly surprised when the denouement came. Foreshadowing there may have been, but it was cleverly done and - as should be the case - it was only discernible with hindsight. A cracking good read, the book has even nudged my husband into the 21st century as he’s pinched my Kindle and is avidly reliving his own teenage years in Torquay.

This Book Club Précis, Questions or Discussion Summary may be reproduced in printed format or on any non-commercial website or blog on condition that the following copyright line and bio are prominently displayed beneath it.

© Copyright Mel Menzies: USED BY PERMISSION Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies runs an Online Book Club and is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. This article, in its original form, can be found at


Your Comments:

4th November 2012
at 8:59am
Thanks for the review, Mel. I'm also a Baptist! A member of Teignmouth Baptist church
4th November 2012
at 10:37am
Thanks for your comment, Sophie. Look forward to meeting you one day - and to reading your next book.
4th November 2012
at 10:45pm
Sounds like a really interesting premise. I may have to add this one to my teetering to-be-read pile!
Well worth adding to your teetering pile, Fiona. I can guarantee you won't be able to put it down.

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