The Radleys: A Novel

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Overview

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are ...

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The Radleys: A Novel

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Overview

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking—and disturbingly satisfying—act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain—and lose—when we deny our appetites.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This witty vampire novel from British author Haig (The Possession of Mr. Cave) provides what jaded fans of the Twilight series need, not True Blood exactly, but some fresh blood in the form of a true blue family. Dr. Peter Radley and his wife, Helen, have fled wild London for the village of Bishopthorpe, where they live an outwardly ordinary life. The Radleys, who follow the rules of The Abstainer's Handbook (e.g., "Be proud to act like a normal human being"), haven't told their 15-year-old vegan daughter, Clara, and 17-year-old son, Rowan, who's troubled by nightmares, that they're really vampires. A crisis occurs when a drunken classmate of Clara's, Stuart Harper, attacks her on her way home from a party and inadvertently awakens the girl's blood thirst. Peter's call for help to his brother, Will, a practicing vampire, leads to scary consequences. The likable Clara and Rowan will appeal to both adult and teen readers. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"Very original spin on the myth...The bite-size chapters guide the reader from one viewpoint to another....Haig's depiction of teen politics is spot on....insightful, frightening and uplifting....Uncle Will [is] a splendidly evil yet believable character...Haig pays just about enough respect to the conventions of the genre that the average vampire fan should find lots to enjoy, but it's the blackly comic dissection of the family that makes this book stand out." —The Guardian

“This witty vampire novel from British author Haig provides what jaded fans of the Twilight series need, not True Blood exactly, but some fresh blood in the form of a true blue family.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Dark humor pervades Haig's entertaining vampire family soap opera...a refreshing take on an oversaturated genre." —Library Journal

“Terrific, droll, and touching.”

Parade

The Radleys is effortlessly sleek and witty.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Haig’s contribution is freshly weird and ultimately thirst-quenching for fans of the genre.”

USA Today

“As befits a vampire story, the wit tends to be sharp….Haig does justice to the effect of…betrayal on the souls of his characters—the startling pleasure and the lasting woe—proving himself a novelist of considerable seriousness and talent.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Matt Haig’s novel is not only head and shoulders above Twilight and all those other wimpy vampire romances, but, as an explorer of contemporary mores, Haig is more enjoyable company than writers with more ‘literary’ pedigrees.” —Newsday

“The genius of novelist Matt Haig’s book is that the vampirism takes a back seat—a wet, bloody back seat, but still—to the blackly comic family turmoil that’s at the center of the story….Take that, you Twilight mob. The trains of vampire lit and actual lit just met, in a glorious burst of sharp red.”

The Dallas Morning News

“Haig classifies his books as black comedies, and The Radleys certainly fits that description…. [It’s] laced with lethal doses of humor.” —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Library Journal
Dark humor pervades Haig's (The Possession of Dr. Cave) entertaining vampire family soap opera. While Helen was engaged to Peter Radley 17 years ago, his brother Will secretly whisked her off for one sex-filled "vampire conversion" night in Paris. A pregnant Helen then told Peter the baby was his, and together they decided to live like normal people and follow the guidelines set down by the Abstainer's Handbook, written for those who no longer wish to live the traditional vampire life. Complications arise as their children, Rowan (Will's biological son) and Clara, begin to acquire vampire characteristics. Clara is the first to change when one night a thuggish classmate attacks her. The fangs pop out, and Clara does what any vampire would naturally do. At last Helen agrees with Peter that it is time to explain their heritage to the children. At first the Radleys seem to be the stereotypical dysfunctional family, but each of them gradually shows a depth of character that helps them to pull together when outside forces attempt to destroy them. VERDICT This witty novel offers a refreshing take on an oversaturated genre. Already optioned by director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), this is sure to attract reader attention. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10.]—Patricia Altner, Columbia, MD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439194010
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Pages: 371
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Haig is the bestselling author of several children’s books and novels, including The Last Family in England, a UK bestseller, and The Radleys, winner of the ALA Alex Award. An alumnus of Hull University and Leeds, his work has been translated into twenty-nine languages. He lives in New York with his wife, UK novelist Andrea Semple, and their two children.

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Read an Excerpt

Orchard Lane

It is a quiet place, especially at night.

Too quiet, you’d be entitled to think, for any kind of monster to live among its pretty, tree-shaded lanes.

Indeed, at three o’clock in the morning in the village of Bishopthorpe, it is easy to believe the lie indulged in by its residents—that it is a place for good and quiet people to live good and quiet lives.

At this hour, the only sounds to be heard are those made by nature itself. The hoot of an owl, the faraway bark of a dog, or, on a breezy night like this one, the wind’s obscure whisper through the sycamore trees. Even if you stood on the main street, right outside the pub or the Hungry Gannet delicatessen, you wouldn’t often hear any traffic or be able to see the abusive graffiti that decorates the former post office (though the word FREAK might just be legible if you strain your eyes).

Away from the main street, on somewhere like Orchard Lane, if you took a nocturnal stroll past the detached period homes lived in by solicitors and doctors and project managers, you would find all their lights off and curtains drawn, secluding them from the night. Or you would until you reached number seventeen, where you’d notice the glow from an upstairs window filtering through the curtains.

And if you stopped, sucked in that cool and consoling fresh night air, you would at first see that number seventeen is a house otherwise in tune with those around it. Maybe not quite as grand as its closest neighbor, number nineteen, with its wide driveway and elegant Regency features, but still one that holds its own.

It is a house that looks and feels precisely how a village family home should look—not too big, but big enough, with nothing out of place or jarring on the eye. A dream house in many ways, as estate agents would tell you, and certainly perfect to raise children.

But after a moment you’d notice there is something not right about it. No, maybe “notice” is too strong. Perhaps you wouldn’t actively realize that even nature seems to be quieter around this house, that you can’t hear any birds or anything else at all. Yet there might be an instinctive sense that would make you wonder about that glowing light and feel a coldness that doesn’t come from the night air.

If that feeling grew, it might become a fear that would make you want to leave the scene and run away, but you probably wouldn’t. You would observe the nice house and the moderately expensive car parked outside and think that this is the property of perfectly normal human beings who pose no threat to the outside world.

If you let yourself think this, you would be wrong. For 17 Orchard Lane is the home of the Radleys, and despite their very best efforts, they are anything but normal.

© 2010 Matt Haig

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 121 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(37)

4 Star

(38)

3 Star

(30)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 121 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Vampire book for all of us in our 40s

    When I received this book I thought oh another vampire book. But then I started to read it and it was so much more. What I liked most about this story was how human the vampires were in the story. They fall in love they marry they have children and they eventually die. This story is about the vampire family the Radleys at the begining of the story their two children do not even know they are vampires. The Parents want to be a typical middle class normal British family and they think by not telling their children about their heritage it will cause them to be normal. This will serously back fire and that is the begining of this wonderful story. I really enjoyed this story because as a middle age man who has been married for 20 years and has teenage children I found Peter very easy to indentify with. If you want something good to read that will make you think this is the book to read.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama

    Dr. Peter and Helen Radley, accompanied by their teenage children Clara and Rowan, move from swinging wild London to quiet sedate Bishopthorpe. Believing blood thirst is a simple addiction, the parents adhere strictly to The Abstainer's Handbook rules that strongly suggest living like a human while living amongst humans. However, they have also neglected to inform their fifteen years old daughter and seventeen years old son that they are purebred vampires.

    The offspring suffer form nightmares that each conceals from their parents. However, everything changes when an intoxicated Stuart Harper attacks Clara a vegetarian. His assault causes the dormant thirst for blood (and meat) to arise in his female classmate as her fangs surface. Peter asks his brother Will an overt vampire to help them with their problems.

    This is an entertaining dark vampire family drama with a powerful twist to the relationships. Character driven, the cast makes the tale fun to read as none of the extended Radley family come across as vampiric stereotyped; instead ironically the four Radley suburbanites are stereotypical: repressed and must behave in accordance with the middle class rules of order while Uncle Will prefers the bloody life of a swinger. Intelligent this is a witty satirical spin to the recent vampire lives amongst us craze.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Terrible

    I'll admit I never finished this book. It was terrible. None of the characters were likable. I couldn't tell if they were supposed to be. Each chapter was about a different Radley and this style led to no continuity in the storyline. Skip this one

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderfully refreshing...

    The Radleys is great. I loved that the vampires in this book were completely opposite of any others I have read and I have read lots of vamp novels. I adored the change in Clara after the accident. And the evil yet wonderfully charming Will. I dont have a bad word to say about this. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    Really good - vampire fans can't miss this!

    This was the best non - cheesy vampire book I have ever read! The concepts in this book were completely original and unique (as far as I know). The characters are completely believable (except for the vampire part) and you can't help but fall in love with them. The conflicts in this book are believable as well. It was great to finally read a vampire book that wasn't completely fantasy romance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Leaves you wanting more!

    This is one of those you want to be a series. You can't stop reading and want to know where the characters go after the ending.

    This isn't your average "running away from your true self" type book. There are things there very unexpected and with an ending that will shock you to your core! I give this book 5 stars for originality and keeping my attention 100% at all times!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    New twist on Vampires highly recommended

    How a family of vampires in rural England try to be good abstaining vampires after a horrible incident brings their "safe" world crumbling down is the story of Matt Haig's wonderful take on vampires in The Radley's. With great characters and page turning storytelling Matt Haig has been able to take the now overdone vampire legend and make it fresh. What happenes when we try to stop ourselves from being what nature tells us we should be are some of the questions Haig answers in frightening yet beautiful prose. I certainly would suggest this to any horror fiction fan but also anyone looking for an engaging well written story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2010

    Fantastic Read!

    Meet the Radleys:

    Peter, the patriarch. Peter is a physician in a small town where everyone knows everyone and is interested in their lives (obsessively so). He wishes for more in his home, doesn't get it, so he begins to fantasize about what could be with his neighbor.

    Helen, the matriarch. Helen tries to keep the family on the straight and narrow, hanging on to habit and tradition with a ferocity that would make a rabid wolverine proud.

    Rowan, the son. Sensitive, artistic, and Lord Byron's biggest fan. Rowan is subjected to the bullying of his classmates. He is also secretly in love with his sister's best friend.

    Clara, the daughter. Clara starts out seemingly in the background. She is Eve's friend, the beautiful newcomer who has enraptured Rowan (and most of the male teenage population of Bishopthorpe). But Clara will not stay in the background long.

    One fateful night, a young man decides that he is going to ignore the fact that no means no. It is his decision that will change the fates of this, well, boring middle-class family.

    You see, the Radleys are vampires. Granted, Rowan and Clara do not know this, and Peter and Helen have been abstaining for the last 17 years. However, that night changes everything for them. Rowan and Clara learn their true natures, Peter's long lost brother returns with his past on his heels, and this nuclear family goes atomic.

    And all of this happens in the span of a week.

    Matt Haig's tale of family and what happens when secrets are finally revealed is one of the best books I have read in quite some time. He is in turn humorous and serious. Haig captures the nature of repression with sparkling clarity. His unique voice is one that I find refreshing. Haig expertly captures the disconnection that his characters are experiencing between what is right and what is nature.

    When I first started the book, I was a little put off by the seemingly erratic change in topic in the first few tiny chapters (some as short as a few paragraphs on one single page). However, as I continued reading, the book and its format began to make sense. As in real life, we never get the full impact of a situation all at once. Haig mirrors that in his writing.

    As with all that I read, I gauge how much I like a book based on if I would read it again. The answer: over and over! This book is fantastic! The only con I can really post is that I would have liked to have heard more from Clara throughout the novel. She tended to take a backseat to everyone else, and she is really the character who put the major part of the story in motion.

    Outside of that, the novel was great! My next step will be to seek out Haig's other novels. I can only imagine they will be just as grand as this one.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2014

    I was disappointed. The E-version must have excluded the darkly

    I was disappointed. The E-version must have excluded the darkly hilarious spins, because I could not find
    any really funny bits.

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  • Posted September 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    **4.5 Stars** I really, really liked this book! It's a satire on

    **4.5 Stars**
    I really, really liked this book! It's a satire on family, society, culture, and it's brilliant!




    The Radleys seem your typical, middle-class family. They live in a modest neighborhood, drive a modest car, dress like other average families, and suffer the same trials and tribulations as any family. But they Radleys are different in one very important aspect. They're vampires.




    I delighted in the way Mr. Haig uses vampirism as a metaphor for the troubles all family endure. Peter and Helen, the parental unit in the Radley family, are suffering the same issues many married couples experience. Rowan and Clara, the Radley children, are affected daily by the stereotypical struggles all teenagers encounter. It's only that, as abstainers, Rowan and Clara live with ailments caused by abstaining, that heighten their issues to extremes. And Rowan and Clara aren't privy to why they have these ailments.




    Once Rowan and Clara are made aware of their true nature, they face an entirely new set of problems. That of whether to embrace their nature, continuing denying it, or find a compromise. This decision is complicated by the arrival of Uncle Will, who is a practicing vampire. He provides an example of living life in the extreme opposite of Peter and Helen.




    There is so much going on in this story that I can't explain it all. But Mr. Haig has constructed a clever tale, full of dark humor. It's definitely a thrilling read which also speaks to the strong bonds of family and the importance of being true to yourself.

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  • Posted April 19, 2013

    Entertaining Even For Non-Vampie Lovers!

    This was a very light, entertaining read. I am NOT a vampire-lover, even though that's the craze these days. But, The Radley's is not your usual blood-thirsty vampire story. It's different in that it actually tells the story of a family of "abstainers" - those who are vampires, but who don't care for all the murder and blood, so they try to live "normal" lives amongst other "normal" people. They even have an abstainers' handbook to guide them on their life of abstinence. Abstinence works for a long while for the Radleys, until one unfortunate and unforseseen incident. The story goes from there. I really loved reading The Radleys and would like more books of this genre.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    Good read.

    A vampire's American Beauty.

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  • Posted March 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Radleys is an intriguing look into the life of a family of v

    The Radleys is an intriguing look into the life of a family of vampires trying to fit in as a normal family in a small, normal town. The vampire mythology in this novel is different than what readers are used to, and is quite interesting. First off, vampires aren’t immortal. They can subsist on human blood, vampire blood, or abstain from both. Those who do their best to ignore their cravings for blood are part of a vampire subculture known as abstainers, who work diligently to live uneventful, human-like lives, denying the callings of blood and the imagination.

    The Radleys are abstainers. Helen and Peter have kept their children, Rowan and Clara in the dark for seventeen years. For years, these teens have tried to live unassuming lives in a small English town. However, they have always stuck out; have always been picked on by others who, subconsciously, realized that the Radleys are different. Nothing challenges this status quo until Clara is followed home and assaulted by the bully at school. He forces himself on her, and in a panic, she defends herself to keep herself from getting raped. This is the night that changes everything, that brings into question whether or not the Radleys can ever truly live normal lives again.

    I thought the novel, overall, was quite well done. It really brings to light the issues of family, fitting in, guilt, temptation and identity. It may be a story about vampires, but there are messages applicable to real life. The general premise and themes remind me of “The Gates”, an American television show about a suburban gated community of supernatural beings, and their struggle to lead somewhat normal lives. I liked that show, and I liked this novel. I’d recommend it to fans of vampires and fans of books about the struggles of domestic life.

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Family of Vampires

    The Radleys is a well written and fun family vampire story. The family lives in the suburb and is fitting into the neighborhood. They are trying to abstain and truly be 'human'. But the Radleys must deal with jobs, neighbors and teenage children. I hope to see more from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    Great book

    Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    It was Entertaining

    I thought the story line was good. It kept my attention. My type of book....light and fun.

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  • Posted September 21, 2011

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    Needs more bite!!

    OK. I'll admit it. I'm a vampire nut! This story is unique in the way it portrays vampires and vampirism. Especially 'The Abstainers Handbook' a guide to help vampires deny their blood craving instincts and to try and pass among the general populace unnoticed. The Unnamed Predator Unit, a secretive branch of the police force tries to keep rogue vampire incidents from general public by aligning itself with a group of powerful vampires who help provide information and discipline among other vampires. Now meet the Radleys. Dad's a doctor, Mom's a homemaker with a talent for painting, dark and moody teenage brother Rowan and Clara a vegan who is just starting to become socially active. Vampires all, but Dad and Mom practice abstinence and have never discussed their vampire lineage with the kids. At a party Clara has to fight off the advances of an over amorous bully who corners her alone. A shockingly violent episode leaves quite a mess. What happened? How to explain what happened to the bully's family, friends and even the police! A call home brings her parents to try and control the situation but there are so many loose ends... An argument ensues over calling Uncle Will, a practicing vampire of some ill repute, who arrives to help, but also with family secrets and intentions to end the families abstinence and teach the kids their true natures. Equal parts vampire story and story of family dynamics the book moves back and forth between the two spheres never quite deciding which it will ultimately follow. I never really became immersed in the book to the degree I wanted. The characters never really conveyed the urgency that the story required to sustain my interest. There is little sex or excessive violence to worry about. I ultimately added it to my list of books for young adults.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Great Story - you have to read

    I loved this idea for a story. I read a lot of vampire stories and this was a little different. My husband enjoyed it too. I'd love to see a continuation of The Radleys future. Make a series out of this one.

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  • Posted April 30, 2011

    not worth it

    got this with part of a xmas gift card. one of a very few books i have skipped to the end to see who lived. author was sleepwalking through this one.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Vampires can have kids?

    Can't say that I've ever read a book about a family of abstaining vampires before. And who knew that vampires could even have children, much less that the children would turn out to be vampires as well! Really liked that the kids had no idea of their heritage, and were sick for most of their lives as a result. Very original!

    The Radleys come across as your stereotypical, repressed British family. A nervous mother, a milquetoast father, and two sickly children. The son is actually a bully-magnet and has no friends. The kids are obviously miserable, from sensitivity to sunlight to constant headaches and nausea, so I couldn't understand why the parents were so adamant that they never know their true natures.

    Things come to a head one night when daughter Clara is pushed too far and her true nature asserts itself. While the rest of her family tries to deal with the fallout, Clara seems to blossom. Uncle Will is called to try and help clean up the mess, but only manages to make things worse.

    Gave this one a 4/5 as I really enjoyed this twist on your typical vampire tale. I really liked watching the children, Clara and Rowan, deal with the ramifications of Clara's act. From learning what it means to be a vampire, to dealing with the fact that their parents had lied to them their entire lives, to adjusting to their new appetites. Felt they were much more interesting than the adults. Think that this was a very original, well written story, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Radleys. Even if you don't like vampire stories, I think you might like this one!

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