Customer Review

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense and Absorbing Family Drama, 18 July 2013
This review is from: The House We Grew Up In (Paperback)
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.
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Susie B
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