From the outside, the Bird family looked like they had it all. Happy mum, happy dad and four children living a perfect childhood altogether in their family home with its rambling gardens. Lorelei has always loved Easter in particular, and everything that comes with it, but one year, that idyllic reality is cruelly shattered forever when a tragedy befalls the Bird family. It breaks up their family piece by piece, and soon most of the Bird family live away from each other, without contact and that's how they like it. Only Lorelei remains in the Bird home, but soon all the Bird children are to return home, but it's not quite the home they left behind all those years ago...
The blurb of this book really doesn't give away a lot about the story or the characters, and I think that is part of the charm when you're reading - you really don't know what is going to happen and why it's happening so I'm going to continue that air of mystery in my review. The Bird family are all interesting people, and you can see why their childhood shapes them to be the adults that they turn out to be, especially the eldest daughter Meg who seems most affected by what her mother does. Lorelei is someone I did struggle to warm to, she seems quite an eccentric person and as things about her are revealed, I was less and less sure about her, and how she could rationalise to herself what she was doing, not only to herself but her family as well. Her relationships with everyone are affected by what she does, although of course it isn't her fault, but it is sad to see a family fall apart over such things.
The book takes place of a time period of around 30 years, flicking between the present day and what the Bird children are currently up to, and this is interspersed with visits to their past, to their childhood and the tragic event that took place one Easter. This event is quite shocking, but Jewell deals with it in such a raw and realistic way, you almost feel the grief along with these characters. It is Lorelei's reaction that sets her apart from the rest, and really sets the tone for the rest of the novel where she is concerned. I did cringe slightly as I read the scenes in the past, where Lorelei was perhaps embarrassing as a mother, and you can understand why her children found it difficult to want to be with her, I really found myself sympathising with Meg who hasn't had an easy life, yet I found Beth and Rory to be less sympathetic, and I really wanted to give them a good talking to!
The vivid descriptions of the Bird house, both in the present day and the past, are fantastically written by Jewell, and you can very easily view it in your minds as the children play in the garden, Lorelei cooks Easter dinner for them or in the later days when Meg returns to her home. It's sad to think what happened to the home, but Jewell writes its decay so well, you feel sad when you read about the state it has gotten into. Jewell covers a very real and serious issue within this book, and it certainly isn't a happy go lucky read. However, it is an emotional read that is very realistic in its portrayal of a family falling apart, and Lorelei's condition as well, and while at times I found it to be quite hard to read, I was utterly glued to it and couldn't stop reading, it was riveting. Jewell has written a superb book here that I heartily recommend, I loved it, and I think it's one of those books that will stay with you long after turning the final page. Brilliant.
on 29 July 2014
As the mother of teenage twin boys, I found the tragedy in this book quite harrowing, to the point that I wasn't sure whether or not to continue reading it. I'm a huge Lisa Jewell fan, so I knew the story would be brilliant, and I was right. I'm so glad I carried on. While the tragedy is a very important part of the storyline, it doesn't dominate the whole book and doesn't make for depressing reading.
The Bird family is a happy one. The mother, Lorelei, is determined to make her children's childhoods perfect, unlike her own, but she is already battling her own demons. When tragedy strikes the family, those demons eventually take over.
As always, Lisa Jewell's characters feel real. At times, I felt sorry for them, admired them, pitied them and felt furious and exasperated at them! We see each of them trying to cope with their grief and with Lorelei's strange behaviour, (not to mention their own relationship issues) in their own, individual ways. Sometimes this brings them closer together, at other times it alienates them from each other. Through present day storytelling and childhood memories, we discover family secrets and get to know each character as a unique person, with both good and bad characteristics, as well as being able to see how the family evolves as a whole.
All in all, a fantastic read, with believable characters and an element of mystery to the storyline. Once again, Lisa Jewell had me hooked. It was one of those books where I faced a dilemma - I couldn't wait to read more, to find out what became of the characters, but I didn't want the book to end!
Now I can't wait to start reading "The Third Wife".
Meet the Bird Family
All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture-book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.
But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.
Admittedly I have never read a Lisa Jewell book before – which tends to make people frown at me – so when I received The House We Grew Up In as part of a Goodreads Giveaway I was very excited. And boy, was this good or was this good?
Jumping between past and present we meet the Bird family. In the past, we have a seemingly idyllic childhood – Easter egg hunts, a laid back and relaxing lifestyle, full of fun and laughter and togetherness. Jump forward in time and the family are separate and fractured – as we begin to discover why, and watch them try and put themselves back together, it is emotional and fascinating reading.
Filled with a plethora of intriguing and very real characters, this was a wonderful reading experience. At turns sad, funny, unbelievably emotional and always compelling it was one of those novels you force yourself to put aside occasionally so you can savour the moment you come back to it – and of course, make it last just that bit longer..
I think my favourite pair have to be the enigmatic and very troubled Lorelei, offset by steadfast and opposite daughter Meg – as a real insight into how our upbringing can affect us, Meg is an almost perfect example for many reasons – having said that Ms Jewell manages to make every single character here deliciously captivating. As we see how each one reacts to tragedy, there is a depth and resonance to it that you don’t find in many family drama’s and I was totally hooked throughout.
Pyschologically speaking we have a look into a very real problem faced by some people – I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the story – but that part of the novel is obviously well researched, absolutely fascinating and told in a genuinely moving way. Some of it did bring tears to my eyes.
Overall a fabulous and poignant tale of family – immediately putting Lisa Jewell on my must read list. Indeed I am reading “The Third Wife” as we speak – so I daresay you will be hearing about that one soon.
**Book received via a Goodreads Giveaway Thank you ***
on 16 June 2014
I purchased this book as it was on a "Top 10" summer 2014 holiday read list. How on earth it made it on to that list is beyond me.
The best thing about this book was the opening chapter, which was interesting, promised a good story and made me want to read more. However, by the time I was a quarter of the way through the book I was totally bored. I persevered until the end (not wanting to waste £7!) and was left feeling depressed and cheated.
It's the first time I've bought a book by this author and it will be the last.
on 23 January 2016
I picked this up from our local library and...couldn't put it down again once I started to read. It's a moving, complex tale of a complicated family. I love all the diverse characters and Lorelei (what a name!), the mother and central character in particular intrigued me. I'm a bit of a hoarder too but nothing like her... As the story unfolds, we learn a little bit of why the family, who "used to be such a tight-knit little bunch..." turned out to be "a bunch of raggle-taggle gypsies." A truly shocking Easter Day tragedy starts the unravelling and the family disperses and 'disintegrates' as Lorelei's hoarding increases. I would love to be inside Lisa Jewell's mind for a day: to see how she gathers material for her work; how she builds up her characters and weaves her plots... I imagine her to be an inveterate people watcher and she writes about the research she carried out on the subject of hoarding at the end of the book. Although the story jumps from year to year and character to character - i.e. April 2011, back to 2004 and then March 2005, back to January 2011, it is skilfully executed. There is a purpose: each time, a little more is gleaned from events to explain the outcome. At the end, when Meg/Megan (the eldest of the four siblings) starts the task of clearing her mother's house, she is daunted: "The enormity of the task ahead of her felt heavy on her skull...the prospect of unearthing her childhood and finding it riddled with rot." The subject matter could result in a depressing read but it didn't... there were times when I had to laugh out loud at the eccentricities of the family and at the same time, it is a very moving story. The next time I walk past a dilapidated house in a beautiful street, I will stop and wonder what happens behind the walls and ask myself if there are any "buried secrets." I've read one other book by this author - "The truth about Melody Browne" and I enjoyed that too - Lisa Jewell is a sensitive, intelligent, entertaining author. I want to read more of her work and I recommend her.
Lorelei is a strange, but cheerful mother. She loves rainbows, Easter and bright colors and likes to keep things that other people would throw away. Her husband and three of her four children also see her collections as part of her charm. They are all pretty happy in their chaotic house, until one day something awful happens. The youngest son, Rhys committs suicide by hanging himself in his bedroom. Slowly the family starts to fall apart until there's nothing left for Lorelei but a house filled with so much junk she can barely live in it anymore. She's on her own and she dies alone. What happened to this once so close family?
The House We Grew Up In is an intense read. Lorelei's hoarding is a devastating problem and it was described in a beautiful and compassionate way. The family members all make their own mistakes, they're just humans who have a lot of baggage. All of the three remaining children deal with the loss of their brother in their own way. They aren't good for each other and they aren't there for one another at all, but they are family. Which basically means they need to stay in touch at least every once in a while. Slowly Lisa Jewel reveals their stories and secrets. She's written this novel in such a clever way. Lorelei is the center of everything, she's a special, sensitive and eccentric woman who has to miss everything and everyone she loves so much in the end. I admired how everything in this story came together eventually. There were no loose ends and it all had a reason. This book is really impressive and I'm glad I had the chance to read it.
I have always been a little hit and miss when it comes to Lisa Jewell books but I thoroughly enjoyed her previous release and when I read the synopsis of The House We Grew Up In I was more than a little intrigued!
This is the story of the Bird family. Four siblings grew up in an idyllic settling in the country but one horrific event left the family in pieces. As each of the children come into adulthood it soon becomes clear that the devastating event has had a dramatic impact on each of their lives. The question is can they help each other to get their lives back on track or will the family be torn apart for ever?
This really was a superb read. It is a very deep and meaningful storyline that is so compelling it is impossible to put down. I did find it took me a long time to get comfortable with the layout of the book as it continually jumps not only between different characters points of views but also between the past and the present and just to add to the mix there is also Lorelei's emails! Although it took a long time to get used to this layout it actually was perfect for this book as it allowed us to really get to know each of the characters and let us see their thoughts on the event that took place and also how it individually effected each of them.
The author has covered many issues in this book and she has weaved each of these issues beautifully around the main storyline.
The whole hoarding topic has always intrigued me and it was great to see both Lorelei's thought process on this as well as the thoughts of her loved ones. The way the author manages to describe the sight and smell of the house is remarkable I almost felt as though I was there crawling through the mess.
Meg, Beth and Rory were all fabulous characters. Being part of such a dysfunctional family certainly had a dramatic effect on each of them and their emotions poured out through the pages.
This is certainly not an easy, carefree read but none the less it is a true page turner that will have you gripped and immersed in the storyline. I highly recommend this book.
Two close and loving sisters, Megan and Bethan, twin brothers at odds, Rory and Rhys, exciting, vibrant zany mother Lorelei, calm, caring father Colin.
Magazine pretty Cotswold house, with gorgeous garden, Aga, welcoming kitchen, sweet neighbours, all bathed in buckets of constant positivity, praise and appreciation of the good life...
How this all descends into chaos is carefully and cleverly unpicked. Lisa Jewell shows us the complex tapestry pattern from face and back, she builds the tension, plants her plums to ripen, how deliciously magnificent the unfolding. Lorelei`s lovely voice speaks so openly through her emails to Jim, her late life online lover, communications so pure and self-aware they are exquisitely touching.
I had't read any other fictional explanation of the hoarding habit Lorelei succumbs to. At first it seems something easy to pass judgement over, however as the story grows you just get it with bells on.
If you like family drama with a contemporary edge this is for you. It reminded me of Anne Fine's writing, especially Telling Liddy. another great story of family crisis.
I saw this book in the supermarket but felt it would be better read on the kindle, being so weighty and thick. Now I wish I had it on paper so I could lend it to all and sundry. I shall have to make do by giving it 5 stars and sending this review out into the world. I'm off to declutter the house, myself!
on 26 August 2014
I absolutely loved reading this book! I have read several of Lisa Jewell's other books and I think this is her best by far.
After a slightly slow start I was soon hooked and couldn't read quick enough. I would probably have read it in one sitting if I didn't have 4 children and it wasn't the summer holidays!
It is a story about the family we are born into and that which we create, it explores relationships on many levels and the process of lifelong learning through experience and the mental and emotional scars so many of us carry. I found the characters and plot so intriguing, I wanted to discover more and more.
It certainly made me reflect upon certain aspects of my life and in my mind that's one of the benchmarks of a great book - the impact it leaves behind.
I highly recommend!
The Bird family: full-time mum, Lorelei, college lecturer dad, Colin, and the children: Megan, Beth and twins Rory and Rhys, all live together in a beautiful old cottage in a Cotswold village. Inside the cottage in a huge family kitchen with its yellow painted walls covered with pictures drawn by the Bird children, stands a battered pine table, an old dresser filled with mismatched china and an AGA to provide warmth and family meals. Outside of the cottage is a wonderfully overgrown garden full of trees, bushes and rambling roses - the ideal location for Lorelei's Easter egg hunt, an event which she organises with enthusiasm every year, come rain or shine. Sounds idyllic? Well, Lorelei certainly does her utmost to make her children's lives as idyllic as possible, but all is not quite what it seems in the Bird family, and one Easter weekend a tragedy occurs which is so catastrophic that not one member of the family will escape from it unscathed.
As the years pass and the Bird family find ways to cope, or perhaps more truthfully, to not cope with the aftermath of the tragic event, they gradually all move away from their so-called wonderful family home and Lorelei, saddened by her failure to create a lasting idyll for her children, indulges in her passion for collecting items which she feels will help her to hold onto her memories of a happier past. But Lorelei's passion soon turns to obsession and then into a full-blown psychological disorder which causes even more problems for the Bird family - but just what is it that Lorelei is trying to compensate for? (No spoilers, we learn most of this early in the novel and there is a huge amount more for prospective readers to discover).
Moving backwards and forwards in time over a period of thirty years, this absorbing family drama is a real page-turner and one which keeps you wondering whatever is going to happen next. With themes of love and passion, of physical and mental illness, of adultery and betrayal, Lisa Jewell's latest novel makes for entertaining and absorbing reading. The author has created some very believable characters for her story and I was impressed with the way she portrayed Lorelei's hoarding obsession with both sympathy and understanding, whilst at the same time showing how difficult it was for other members of her family to cope with her condition. I also enjoyed reading the lovely descriptions of the Bird family home and garden, and the author's portrayal of the house's descent from an untidy, but cosy family home to a warehouse full of clutter and rubbish was made worryingly real. In one part of the story, the house is referred to as: "a depository for Lorelei's deepest buried issues and emotional unrest" which describes her condition perfectly. So, maybe not the light, happy read that might be expected from the cover on this very attractively presented book, but an involving read about the secrets we keep, the barriers we build for ourselves and the decisions and mistakes we make along the way. It's also about the importance of communication, of acceptance, and of responsibility - so it's a story that's very much about growing up - not just physically, but emotionally - and one that would make an ideal book club read.