BOOK REVIEW: LOUISE CANDLISH – OUR HOUSE

*Just a little note: this review may contain spoilers*

It’s hard to write about this book without giving too much of the story away. It’s a book that you need to read to understand what’s going on, but this is what the blurb says:

FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.

When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs?
And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.

Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he sees nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose your house?

TILL DEATH DO US PART.

I’ve seen this book everywhere on social media, there’s a real buzz around it. And for good reason, too. It’s a book about family, property, trust, relationships, love, the loss of it and how far one would go. It’s a book that will suck you in, not letting you go, and want to read in one sitting. Seriously, it’s that good.

When I first started this book, I made a promise to myself – just to read this before going to sleep. No, it’s not a book you can just whip out on a bus, it’s a book that needs to be carefully read, focusing on every word, not one to be missed as it might prove to be a vital clue. It’s true, this is a book that you need to take your time with, time to be familiar with the array of characters and the story, especially with the different narrative perspectives. This is due to the clever writing and plotting by Candlish – it’s perfectly structured, and it shows. Beautiful prose with a plot right at it’s core that will keep you absorbed. Of course, making this book my ‘bedtime read’ didn’t last long as I was so absorbed in it that I needed to read it as quickly as possible. I needed to know what happened. And god, is it good.

I found this book thrilling and although it is rooted in traditions of a crime/thriller book, this offers something different in structure. Through Fi’s story, we hear her story from a modern platform – the podcast. Podcasts are increasingly popular these days, aren’t they? They are what we listen on our way to work, on our commute, before we doze of to sleep. They have replaced, gasp, books. Especially podcasts on true crime. People are addicted to these things, I’m not, I’ll be honest. But I was engrossed in Fi’s story on The Victim. I found this use of narrative very interesting and refreshing; especially with the comments from listeners below which added another layer to the narrative and even questioning how reliable Fi’s narrative is.

As said above, this is a book, a story about property, betrayal, love, the breakdown of a marriage. The book is set in the London suburbs, with Ocado delivery vans, families taking their children to the local dog show, hosting dinner parties and even going on a weekend in Kent with the children, women only. It’s set in an area that seems to be perfect: from the colour of the door, to the magnolia tree, even to the children’s hair cuts. Everything is perfect. But of course, it isn’t. One: community crime is on the rise! Everyone has become more vigilant, questioning those who knock their door in the afternoon, they are hosting meetings with community police officers. The residents on Trinity Avenue, of Alder Rise, know when to spot a criminal and to be vigilant. Even if they’re on their doorstep. Literally.

The characters in this book are very well drawn out and well established and all rounded characters. For me, the most intriguing character was Bram. I enjoyed reading his battles with his own demons, how he progresses from suburban husband with a perfect family, loving wife, good job, and of course, a perfect house. The character of Bram had more edge to him than Fi that made me feel more intrigued to read on. But overall, Fi was also intriguing. This is an addictive story, a story that makes you want to focus on and it’s even more intriguing when reading both points of view. The friends of Fi and Bram are also well written too, notably Merle. Keep your eye on that one…

Throughout the book, there’s lot’s of twists and turns. I saw them coming, well most of them anyway, but they still made me gasp and go ‘Oh! Shit!’ on one specific twist in the middle. If you know, you know. It’s a book that will make you keep on reading, not wanting to stop, twist after twist.

There are lots of books right now about house and property. It’s massive trend and this is right on top. The house almost feels like another character, all on its own. It asks you questions: is the house important? Does it even matter? Is it the house or the things inside that mean more? Is the house a symbol of status? Is it status and living in an area such as Alder Rise more important? There’s a lot of that in the book, the traditions of the middle-class on the street. The women with the children while the dad’s all rally together in the pub. Women are only friends with women. Men are only friends with men, down the pub. You can see this when Fi tells Bram she’s with a friend and Bram automatically assumes it’s a woman. Of course.

Like I said, it’s a book that you will have to read to understand it. It’s brilliantly written with well-drawn established characters with a strong and solid plot in the centre of it all. It’s about a couple, a family, clinging onto the house, their past, scared of the future. (At times, I felt the Vaughan’s were a symbol of that for Fi and Bram: young, modern, wanting to start a family). It’s a book that you will want to keep on reading, over and over again. It’s bloody brilliant. The epitome of the page-turner.

And I bet you wouldn’t be able to stop singing: ‘Our House, in the middle of the street’ by Madness when reading it. I dare you.

Have you read Our House yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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