Author: Louise Candlish | Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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 has 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 than your house?
TILL DEATH US DO PART.
I recently signed up for a book subscription box with Rare Birds Book Club, more out of curiosity than anything else, and Our House was my first “haul”. I’ve talked before about how I found the experience with Rare Birds Book Club, so if you’re interested in the Club generally do go check that out here.
I was a little disappointed that Our House was my first book. It’s clear at a glance that it’s a modern thriller / family or personal drama, and that’s just not my genres… It’s the sort of book you pick up on sale in the supermarket, let’s put it that way… Not to be a book snob, but it just felt sort of trashy… I wasn’t excited, but it was here, I’d paid for it, and I figured I should give it a fair shot. Sadly, even with such low expectations, I was still disappointed. And Our House failed to change my mind about this genre.
I’ll begin with what I liked; which wasn’t much. The writing style was straightforward and clean. The author managed to capture the individual voices of the characters well, and they came across as very distinct and formed personalities. The book also had a clear sense of realism, and little suspension of belief was required on the part of the reader; the whole plot felt like a rather sensational news story. If you’re interested in other people’s problems and read that sort of news, this may well be the book for you.
On to my complaints…
I hate the whole technique of multiple viewpoints. Hate it. Regardless of the genre, I almost always find it distracting, and, to be honest a little frustrating. It’s just harder to connect with the characters when you’re jumping backwards and forwards between them. I’ve definitely seen it done well, and this wasn’t a terrible example, I understand why the author chose to use this device here, but I think the whole story would have worked better with a single perspective. I feel that way about most stories…
To make matters worse, the narrative shifts in time as well… Luckily, the plot is quite simplistic so it’s easy to follow. However, considering this is not a complicated story, I thought it dragged things out unreasonably and I found myself losing interest. Start a story, lead the reader where you want them to go, and finish it off. Don’t drag us backwards and forwards, meandering around your point. There are more effective ways of creating tension and suspense.
I also lost patience with the characters quite quickly. Bram is a whiny loser, desperate to re-capture his lost youth. And, when he gets the freedom that he thought he wanted, he then doesn’t like it… I mean, boo-hoo… Get a grip… He makes a series of terrible decisions, almost unbelievably stupid, and I found myself wanting to give him a slap and tell him to get his head out of his selfish arse. This was a character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. And, since the plot is essentially a marital dispute, it came across as a bit of a blame game. The Bad Husband and his long-suffering, put upon, victim of a wife… I’m sure that’s the case in some instances, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not usually so black and white. It felt a bit one-sided, and man-hater-y.
Fiona is quite relatable, in many ways. I certainly felt for her in terms of the situation she was put in. However, once I’d realised she still had her children, income and career, friends, savings, and a roof over her head (if not the one she intended), I lost patience. I mean, yes, it sucks that your husband committed fraud and sold your house out from under you. Terrible. Obviously, anyone would be upset and angry. Was she in “terror”, as per the description? I don’t think so. And worse things do happen… I think we can all tell a story about a woman of a certain age whose husband behaved abominably and who ends up in a bad situation, with or without their home. It felt a little familiar. Re-build. Get on with your life. This was painted as a complete tragedy, primarily because, until this happened, she was a property millionaire; I mean… Do we feel sorry for property millionaires who lose their property through their own poor choices? She should have had the balls to divorce the guy immediately and chuck him out. Or at least the common sense to see what was going on… Sorry, just didn’t really find myself with a lot of sympathy…
Each chapter has a date and there are all these “@” and “#” social media comments on Fiona’s story, which I thought made the book seem dated before its time. I get the author was trying for a sort of Making of a Murderer documentary style, but I thought the introduction of clearly “designed” social media commentary reminded the reader that they were, in fact, reading a work of fiction. It undermined the realism of the story, they didn’t add anything, and I could have done without them.
Although the story was fine in the sense that there was one, and it was fairly realistic, I thought it lacked subtlety. I mean, were there any real surprises here? Maybe there would have been if I kept reading, but life is too short to be bored by a book. And it was just all a bit reality TV. The author just didn’t give me any reason to care about these characters and their problems.
I can understand why someone else might enjoy this book. It was certainly a story which required very little from the reader, and if you’re a fan of the genre it wasn’t badly written or plotted. However, as I suspected, I found it all a bit tiresome and lost patience. This was a DNF for me, and I’m moving on.
Our House won Sunday Times Book of the Year, so that’s 10 points for my December Book Bingo (“book that won an award”).
If you want to know how December Book Bingo works, and are thinking of joining us, you can find out more here.