Review published on July 2, 2017.
This book gripped me from the start. I have a sensible, practical friend who is searching for her ‘forever’ house and when she entered a pretty thatched cottage that ticked all her boxes, she was filled with nameless dread and could not wait to leave.
Reading about Jack and his girlfriend Syd and their quest for an affordable house in London resulting in the purchase (bargain!) of a creepy old house full of junk really resonated with me, and I am sure other readers will be drawn into what becomes a real tale of twists and turns as the couple gradually realise that all is not well.
This is not your usual haunted house story.
Told alternately by Jack and Syd, it is a slow and tortuous revelation of a scarred life and the consequences of childhood abuse. No couple can be said to have no secrets from one another and often that is to protect partners from things they do not need to know. Syd has tried to protect Jack, but eventually he understands her problem and they can move on together.
The language is direct, chatty and involving. The issues raised are timely – illegal immigrants, child abuse, buying property – and the plot is clever. At one point I thought it was becoming a bit far-fetched, but plunged straight back into the narrative and was swept away again.
This book has all the twists of Gone Girl by Gillian Sharp, but whereas in that book we ended up believing no one, Simon Lelic has us believing in both narrators and rooting for them all the way.
Other characters are well realised and the settings are just right, but the central couple and their feelings for one another and their need to understand and do the right thing are what the book is really about.
I galloped through it, couldn’t put it down.
Dorothy Anderson 5/5
The House by Simon Lelic
Penguin 9780241296547 pbk Nov 2017