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Daughters Of The House Paperback – 11 Mar 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (11 Mar. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853816000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853816000
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.4 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Remarkable and beautifully written (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

A brave and richly imagined novel, full of thrilling set pieces. The new prestige it seems likely to earn for one of our best writers is long overdue. (GUARDIAN)

Subtle and persuasive (COSMOPOLITAN)

An intense piece of writing, in which the transfigured mundane world of recipes, parental prohibitions and almost ritualised gossip is posed against official purity and religiosity, and shown to be superior. (TLS)

Book Description

Utterly beguiling' Joanna Trollope

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By JOHN on 25 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
Given its French setting, I would immediately recommend this exquisitely written novel to anyone who has marvelled over the consummate skill behind Monet’s Impressionist paintings of Rouen Cathedral: indistinct blurs which come into focus when you step away from them. And, in a literary context, one of those novels about a difficult and ambiguous past, where the reader reconstructs that past along with the main characters.
Considering that so little is explicitly said, the summer spent by two adolescent girls in post-Second World War France is vividly rendered. The allusive titles of the chapters - “The Frying-Pan”, “The Oranges”, “The Ironing-Board” - are an important clue to the oppressively domestic setting, but also to the way in which deep and disturbing truths lie behind apparently ordinary objects. And the same is true of words. “Her words shot out in a clatter”, reads one sentence about half-way through the narrative. And, throughout the novel, words do indeed clatter, and resound and reverberate, echoing and amplifying earlier words, combining to show how deep and unpleasant truths are to be found beneath platitudinous surfaces.
The veneer of civilised behaviour is always thin and precarious in Michèle Roberts’s novel. And there are dark forests and dark cellars to mirror the dark secrets the novel gradually unfolds. The whole novel is a dark diamond, and one which demands to be contemplated more than once.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
"Daughters of the House, by Michele Roberts, is an outstanding novel. Roberts retells the story of St. Therese of Lisieux with a new twist. It is a historical fiction set in the 1950's, about Therese's life before she enters the convent. It is littered with little details to make the story more interesting and believable. Her way of describing things is so simple, that it incorporates the reader into the story. The characters, too, are believable and likeable. "Daughters of the House" gives a glimpse of what life was like for Leonie and Therese in France. The secrets they discover and uncover through their childhood games are amazingly inexplicable. The light humorous tone is a magnificent contrast as opposed to the gloomy secrets that lie withing the walls of the family residence. Roberts' novel is fascinating and absorbing. Immediately, "Daughters of the House" draws the reader in, and won't let go. It is an excellent story that surpasses many historical fiction novels.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "west_winger" on 28 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
Michele Roberts's 'Daughters of the House' is an eminently re-readable book, haunting and beautiful. Taking as its central conceit the sanitised figure of St. Therese, the novel examines the circumstances bringing her to this point, revealing a web of intrigue and betrayal.
One of Roberts's preoccupations in this novel is the nature of relationships between women, particularly as young girls fighting for both individuality and acceptance. Therese and her 'cousin' Leonie exist almost as the mirror of one another, bound together by their exclusion from family secrets.
The novel is beautifully written, but unobtrusively so; it is carefully constructed to portray a sense of the pre-linguistic state in which the girls exist. It's a truly extraordinary book that I've read at least half-a-dozen times, and will be reading again; every reading reveals another slant, just as Roberts looks beyond the saint to the woman.
The Virgin Mary haunts this book, suggesting the paradoxical nature of femininity that Leonie and Therese are expected to conform to; in this sense, Michele Roberts can be seen as a successor to Margaret Atwood and Sylvia Plath.
In short: this is a fantastic book, well worth putting time aside for, both to read it, and then simply to consider the points it raises. Wonderful, and highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
The book that really made Michele Robert famous: a lyrical, exquisitely written tale of family tensions in a Normandy village, of the dark legacy of World War II, and of cousin - or is it sibling? - rivalry. Roberts captures what life in 1950s rural France was like perfectly, and there are some beautiful descriptions of the family home, of food (always a Roberts strong point) and of the dramatic, imaginative world of the child. The Catholic themes in the book - Leonie rebels against Catholicism as a child because it stifles her, Therese tries to get approval from adults by aiming to become a saint - are also powerfully explored. There are some frustrating elements to the novel. We're left with an enormous amount of unanswered questions at the end: what exactly happened in the village during World War II? Are Therese and Leonie sisters or cousins and who was their father? Does Therese survive her violent action in the penultimate chapter? What was Antoinette so afraid of? One could have done with the book being slightly longer, so that more of these questions could have been explored. I was also slightly disappointed that the lively Leonie became a simple, rather bad-tempered housewife in middle-age (though this was compensated for by Therese becoming so much more sympathetic as an adult). However, these are small quibbles about a book that, whatever questions it doesn't answer, is a beautiful and thought-provoking read.
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