This review is from: The Little House (Paperback)*minor spoilers*
I first heard of Philippa Gregory through reading "The Other Boleyn Girl" and then her other historical fiction, so - when the TV adaptation of "The Little House" was broadcast - I was surprised to hear she'd written contemporary fiction too. I was rather underwhelmed by the TV adaptation, and only read the book because a relative told me it had a much stronger ending. I didn't expect much from it.
I was very surprised that I loved it. Unlike the adaptation where it was pretty obvious that Elizabeth was a fairly terrible woman trying to drive Ruth mad - and you couldn't help but wonder how no-one saw it - the book is much more vague, for the most part.
Is Elizabeth, while undoubtedly a controlling woman who still cooks boiled eggs and soldiers for her married adult son, deliberately trying to drive Ruth to the point of insanity so she can be locked away forever and then she can have her son and grandson all to herself, or is she actually a decent woman trying to do what she thinks is right? Did Patrick (who was fairly inconsequential in the TV adaptation, but is considerably more manipulative here)only marry Ruth because he thought she was meek and that she would go along with whatever he and his family wanted?
A note on the ending: I hated the ending of the TV adaptation of "The Little House" , as it felt like an easy-way out. Here, the original ending does come as quite a shock the first time you read it. On re-reading, however, you do see events building up to it. I will say, though, that any cheering you may do at the worm turning and taking charge of her own life in such a big way may be erased by the second twist revealed in the final little chapter, which I found ultimately tragic and uncomfortable.
Still a wonderful read though, compelling from start to finish. And - no matter how many times you read it, no matter how strong your suspicions - you can never be quite sure if Elizabeth really is the "Mother-in-law from Hell", or misguided but well-intentioned. Which, I think, is a mark of a good psychological plot.