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The House in Norham Gardens [Paperback]

Penelope Lively , Philip Pullman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Aug 2004
40 Norham Gardens is a vast, eccentric Victorian house whose rooms are filled with old paper, old clothes and antiquated furniture. The thoughts of people both past and present mingle together.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The House in Norham Gardens + A Stitch in Time (Essential Modern Classics) + A Traveller in Time
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Product details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Jane Nissen Books; New edition edition (1 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903252180
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903252185
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book, ostensibly for young people but interesting to adults too, is a subtle account of a young girl's struggle to accept the unpredictability of life. She has lost both parents at eight and now lives with very elderly aunts: she is terrified of losing them too. The book contrasts the anthropology of the past with the multiculturalism of the present and attacks the 'fencing off' of the young,the old or any other group. The aunts are really beautifully drawn and so are the other characters. The book deals with time, history, the importance of memory and concludes that loss can be contained and faced. It shows an unusual family configuration that still provides what the child needs. Altogether a subtle and reflective piece.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN EXCELLENT BOOK - NOT ONLY FOR CHILDREN. 20 April 2000
By A Customer
This is a captivating book, by the author of "Moon Tiger' one of the best books I've ever read. In this book, we see the relationship between Clare Mayfield, who lives with her aunts in Norham Gardens, in North Oxford. The aunts, highly intelligent old ladies,are distanced from the day to day economic necessities of everyday life, and Clare takes on these problems. She discovers a tamburan in the attic, and the past of this relic is described in notes above each chapter. As she encounters more worries about the aunts and their health, she becomes more absorbed in the lives of the people who carved the tamburan. Eventually everything becomes very difficult for her and she needs to be rescued from her plight and the plight of the tamburan......
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and unusual 19 Nov 2012
This book is one of Lively's best for older children and adults. She writes with a very subtle touch but the characters are vivid and believable. The young heroine, Clare, is struggling to come to terms with losses and potential losses in her life. Meanwhile, an intriguing subtext of native spirituality and identity is skilfully woven through the story. I highly recommend this compelling book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good old fashioned kids and big kids story 31 July 2000
By A Customer
I live in Norham Gardens where this book is set and I loved the way Lively recreated the old atmosphere of North Oxford. This book is for kids but Clare, the lead character, is mature and intelligent and through her Lively evokes an easily imagined world and perspective. I wish that they would reprint this book, if only just so the huge numbers of my friends at College in Norham Gardens could buy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Moody atmosphere, not much action 2 Jun 2009
By Tygre - Published on Amazon.com
This is the first book I've read from Penelope Lively. It's a novel set in Oxford in the late 1970s about a young teenage girl, Clare, living with her great-aunts in an antiquated Victorian house. The house is still packed full of things from the 1920s, including a tribal mask from Papua New Guinea that Clare's great-grandfather (the great-aunts' father) brought back from an expedition to the country. Clare unearths the mask one day in the attic and can't stop thinking about it, and she begins to have dreams about the people of Papua New Guinea and how their lives change as the twentieth century encroaches on them. The mask storyline serves as a metaphor for how time affects our lives, and is directly parallel to how time affects the lives of Clare and her great-aunts.

Nothing really happens in this story: there is not much action, it's more of a story about how people feel and think about their futures and their pasts. Clare does the regular sort of things that 14-year-old girls do -- she goes to school, plays with her friend, goes shopping for presents in stores where the shopkeepers look down their noses at her, and misbehaves in a play at school. While she's doing all that, though, she makes some interesting observations about life and time -- the house she lives in has seen the lives of many people pass by, and all the things they've left behind make it seem almost like those people still live there. She thinks about how her great-aunts are sort of stuck in the 1920s, the time period when they were most active. She thinks about how you can't wait for the weekend to get here, and then spend most of the weekend being bored and not having anything to do.

I only gave this book two stars because while Clare's observations are interesting, I spent a lot of time waiting for something to happen in the novel and being slightly disappointed when nothing really did. Looking at the reviews of Lively's other books, though, it seems like most of her novels are more internal stories rather than action-packed, so I don't think I would have been as impatient with the novel if I had known this, but as I hadn't known this, I found the story boring. The best part about this book is the descriptions of her house and Oxford, which are very realistic -- I would love to live in a house with character like Clare's! The story is slow, overall, but if you're looking for something that will make you think about how we view getting older and the process of modernization, then I think this would be a good choice.
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favorite books 21 Oct 2013
By Elizabeth E Wein - Published on Amazon.com
Tygre's review actually gives a very accurate summary of this book - but unlike Tygre, I never found this book boring in the least. I feel like there's a lost art to writing a book in which nothing much happens. There's so much to THINK about here. Clare *is* bored; she's also stifled; but she's also coming to terms with the impending loss of her aunts, the only loving family she has, and all the physical remains that the house itself represents. But as Clare thinks, "unlike the house, the aunts had not set fast in 1890," or something similar. All the characters are beautifully drawn and their interaction is what makes the book so enchantingly charming. Definitely an unfamiliar taste to anyone raised on the non-stop action of Suzanne Collins - The House in Norham Gardens is a beautiful tribute to another age, and to *coming* of age.

Incidentally, that house has probably now been subdivided into four flats which sell for about a million pounds a piece. (That's what happened to the houses of two of my friends who grew up in Norham Gardens.)
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