In her new novel Zoë Heller takes cold-eyed aim at the parents the 1960s crew became, and blasts them to pieces. They are represented here by Joel Litvinoff, a celebrated radical New York lawyer for whom no cause is too extreme to defend, and his wife Audrey, British-born of Polish-Jewish parents and if anything even more dedicated to all things progressive.
The book opens with Joel leaving the stage, collapsing in court from a stroke as he sets out to defend an American Arab accused of terrorism, and the action plays out as he lies in hospital in a coma from which he will not emerge. As he slowly deteriorates, his family disintegrates and the skeletons come tumbling out of Joel's cupboard.
Audrey, one of the least sympathetic characters to be encountered in modern fiction, takes out her rage on her daughters Karla and Rosa, whom she appears to have detested since birth, while she lavishes unconditional love on her druggy, feckless adopted son Lenny (father blew himself up making a bomb, mother serving life for killing a policeman). Karla, fat and unhappy, is trying to conceive a child with her husband, a stolid union organiser.