Before I get stuck into writing this review, I want to thank Jenny Oliver for sending me a copy of The House We Called Home ahead of publication. It arrived on the perfect day and made an already magical weekend even more special. So thank you! (The dog has forgiven me, btw.) 🙂
What The House We Called Home is about
The house where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa. Except this summer, things feel a little different…
Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans – is curiously unfazed by his absence, and eager to talk about her mysterious dog-walking buddy Mitch.
Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can’t stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get of his chest too. Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him. This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns…
(Blurb from goodreads)
What I liked about The House We Called Home
Where to begin?!
- The Writing: Jenny Oliver is an excellent writer and has a way with words that makes me want to go, pick up a dictionary and learn 10 new words a day. (Maybe I should…)
- The Scenery: Can I please move into that house they called home? The country-style open-plan kitchen. The sparkling blue sea. The fields where one might or might not want to have sex in. The little town where everyone knows everyone and the beach where you can go if you need a place to think. I love it all. And if that house ever appears on Rightmove, I will be the first one to make an offer.
- The Dialogue: To me, dialogue is probably the most important feature in a book, as I’m no fan of lengthy descriptive passages. And Jenny Oliver nailed it. Reading the book felt like being amongst Stelle and her family, listening to their bickering and joining in with comments of my own.
- The Characters: There are a lot of them. Like, a lot. And normally that bothers me because it tends to make it hard to keep up with them all. But not this time. Stelle and her family are (almost) all lovely in their own ways. They all have their problems and their quirks, but isn’t that what makes them human and relatable? Gus would probably have to be my favourite and I feel like he is the one that drives the story. He lightens the mood when the others start bickering and he just tells things as they are. Plus, his humour is exactly my kind of humor. So if Amy doesn’t want you, Gus, take the next plane out to Switzerland and give me a call. You have your passport with you anyway, so this could be your second adventure. 😉
- The Family: If you know me in person, you probably know that family is everything to me. Because if all else fails, family is what you will always have left. They are bound to you. If they like it or not. So having family be the overriding them in the book, made it so much more special for me. I found myself nodding enthusiastically more than once and thinking “Yes. That’s how that feels!” over and over again. Because as much as your family is bound to you, keeping the (individual) relationship(s) alive, moving forward, making compromises, understanding each other’s perspectives, respecting each other’s wishes and being open to their dreams and opinions even when you don’t agree can be incredibly hard at times. And all the while, you have to remember that you are your own person as well and your wishes matter too. Seems obvious, that this can get hard, doesn’t it? And I feel like Stella put it perfectly in her column.
…, for any relationship to work it’s about remembering that the people in it once existed quite happily without the other. They are people in their own right. Not simply cut-outs of predictable reactions to walk alongside.
What I didn’t like about The House We Called Home
The only tiny little thing that bother me about The House We Called Home was Moira, Stella and Amy’s mother. From the get-go she just rubbed me the wrong way.
But I don’t want to spoiler the book before it’s even out, so maybe I’ll reserve that for a later post because I also thinks that it goes a bit deeper than Jenny Oliver’s book as it is about more than just Moira.
Writing this, I feel kinda stupid because what does that really tell you, hm? Pretty much nothing. But I will leave you hanging in mid-air here. Look at it as some kind of hook to get you to buy the book (rhymes even…) 🙂 Because I feel like it needs Moira. She stands for a particular type of person in the book that the story needs. Which means that me not always liking her doesn’t have anything to do with me not liking the book. Which then again means that this whole paragraph is kinda useless. So I will be shutting up now. 🙂
Would I recommend The House We Called Home?
Heck yeah! Absolutely! 100%!
If you love a summery story about family, bridging differences, forgiveness and relationships; and if you know that life can sometimes be a bit shitty and the people you love can drive you nuts, to the point where you’re not even sure if you like them – except you know that you love them… If all of that, or even just part of it, rings true for you, then The House We Called Home is a book you MUST read.
It will be out on July 12th (ebook on June 28th) and is already up for pre-order. So I suggest you go and pre-order yourself a copy. Read it and then come back here to tell me if you know why I sometimes struggled to like Moira. Or just come back here to join my love-fest for the book.
What to read after The House We Called Home
If you, like me, love stories about family, with relatable characters, dreamy scenery and just the right amount of humour, I suggest you go and read The Summer House by the Sea and The Sunshine and Biscotti Club. Both books are by Jenny Oliver and remind me a lot of The House We Called Home.
At the back of the book, it says that The House We Called Home is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond. Now, when I first read that I didn’t agree at all because I find Jenny Oliver’s book so much easier to read in one go and really get sucked into the story. But after finishing the book, I can see what they meant. Lucy Diamond too is known for writing books about family and the complexity of human relationships. So maybe you should go and check out her books as well. I have recently read (or listened to) The Secrets of Happiness and I think, I can stand behind that book. So there you go.
With that said and done, all that is left for me to do is urge you once again to go and pre-order The House We Called Home. Until then you can set up your perfect reading spot, pick out a summery bookmark, plan your drink of choice and count down the days. A month sounds like a lifetime now. But! The countdown to Christmas is pretty much a month long and you survived that one, didn’t you? 🙂