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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 26 September 2003
The Little House is a remarkable gem of a psychological thriller. It makes even the most normal, everyday events seem sinister and riveting.
The plot focuses on Ruth who is talked into starting a family by her husband and living down the road from his upper class parents in the country. Then the nightmare unfolds. The book is a masterpiece of claustrophobia as Ruth’s in-laws intrude more and more into her life. All throughout the book I felt tense and unsettled – just as I love to be when I am reading a thriller. I could absolutely empathise with Ruth and as her situation got worse and worse I was routing for her all the way.
Ruth is a delightful, yet in some ways tragic character. She is a successful journalist and yet her past has meant that she is needy and desperately seeking love. She thinks she has found a family which she can belong to at long last in her in-laws but what she fails to realise is that they want to control her. The mother in-law, father in-law, and Ruth’s husband Patrick are chillingly plausible and well developed. The beauty in this novel is that unlike in many other psychological thriller’s these three characters are not evil, they truly believe they are doing the best for Ruth and themselves – even as they push her further and further towards the limits of her own sanity.
Overall The Little House is a fantastic study of relationships between a woman and her in-laws and how the ordinary things can lead someone to madness, and to do the most unspeakable things. The Little House’s packs a hard, chilling punch, especially as the ending is so unexpected and compelling. I would recommend this book unreservedly.
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on 11 October 2005
I couldn't put it down... It's one of those books you remember. My stomach turned with every page as the tense and twisted plot unfolded...
I willed the central character to wake up and see her scheming mother in law for what she was....
...and I cursed her weak and childish husband.
I really didn't see that ending coming either.
This book is for every woman who feels like she's married her inlaws ...... (and for every grown man who still lets his mum do his ironing.)
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on 6 June 2002
I would urge anyone to have a go at reading this wonderful book. Granted, the style of the narrative and cover might not immediately alert you that this is an exciting psychological thriller but just wait until you really get into the story! The main character is Ruth who due to a bleak past has become a woman that is easily led and pushed around by her in-laws, and indeed her husband for fear of displeasing and losing them. The novel focusses on how someone can be pushed to the very limit of their control and what happens when they are forced over the edge. Ruth was a believable, gripping character. I even found myself feeling suffocated and powerless against her in-laws and husband through the superb narrative and dialogue. Other reviewers have sugested that Ruth is not a 'modern woman', maybe this is true to some extent, but I feel the point is that the story can only happen because as Ruth had a tough childhood (I won't give the details away) she feels unable to stand up for herself or her family, therefore, the book does make sense taken in the correct context. Ruth is a vulnerable, trapped woman and the story is timeless.
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on 21 March 2002
I have never read any of Philippa Gregory's books before and I only came upon this one by chance. The title and the cover are deceiving, as this is no mushy love story. It seems to be quite innocent on the surface, but has very sinister undertones. I was gripped from the beginning and I couldn't wait to read more! This certainly won't be the last Philipa Gregory book I read!
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on 18 February 2011
I've read a few of the Tudor Court novels (which I love) and until recently didn't know the author had written contemporary stuff as well. I'm not sure however that I would agree with all the positive reviews on here about this book. This book is okay, nothing special and the 'double twist' ending just didn't have any impact on me at all. The plot is okay but I think the book is let down by the characters. Elizabeth the perfect wife and mother employs a cleaner to do her own housework whilst criticising Ruth for the standard of hers. Patrick is vain, shallow, spoiled through and through and selfish. His mother's fault of course; Patrick's never lifted a finger in his life and is shocked to be asked to do things like put a dirty nappy in the bin, or peel a few spuds! I know it's a work of fiction but it just doesn't contain, for me at least, believable characters. Thomas is the only one who behaves normally. The book says that Elizabeth 'made a home which was the envy of their friends'. What friends!? Not a single one shows up all through the book - the only person Elizabeth and Frederick have any social contact with is their son. No wonder they're desperate to keep him. And what of Miriam, Patrick's sister? She's living in Canada and it's hinted at that she does not get along with her parents, or more specifically, her mother. But why? This is never explained. The novel left me with too many irritations: Ruth is weak and should have stood up to her pathetic husband in the first place; Patrick needs to grow up; and both him and his parents need to cut the apron strings. One more thing that struck me: the references to egg meals. Elizabeth cooks boiled eggs and soldiers for her son's breakfast (a grown man who is supposed to be a bigwig in media not a little boy at school!); she serves up omelettes or quiche with salad for lunch. The original mother hen with her eggs. I wasn't impressed with this book and shall stick with the historial ones in future.
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on 28 April 2005
Only a short opinion and not a summary as you can read that elsewhere.
This is a truly excellent pyschological thriller. How could any woman can go ahead and have kids after reading this? Scares the wits right out of you and highly recommended. This is not one of Gregory's historical or romantic dramas; this is tight and right all the way through.
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on 18 May 2009
Philippa Gregory's books are superb - though until reading "The Little House" I had focussed only on her historical works.
I couldn't put it down, it was an insight into what can and does happen in such situations, and no-one really ever gets to know. How I could feel poor Ruth's hysteria and fury when she found her baby missing, and saw him being played with on the rug at the inlaws' house. I could have hit Frederick for his stupid ignorance of what was happening and his comfortable life in his own moneyed world - and Patrick was such an unbelievably spoiled idiot. I didn't understand how Ruth could fall for such a man! Ruth should have not allowed Elizabeth to interfere as she did - but that had to be for the story to unfold.
This must happen in real life, in many different circumstances. How many people have been labelled insane or neurotic when in fact they are far from it! Philippa has researched such a situation meticulously in order to present such powerful writing and emotive insight.
I do want to know what Ms Gregory intended to happen to Ruth - did she ever get found out I wonder?
It's a wonderful and unusual read which absorbs you completely.
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on 12 April 2009
PG conveys perfectly the powerlessness Ruth (a strong educated assertive woman) feels against the tidal wave of her mother-in-law's constant entirely reasonable suggestions. Each individual suggestion or interferance is sensible and practical. So, Ruth would have to be very ungrateful and unreasonable to object! So she can never object. So she is almost swallowed up by her MIL. Almost. It's an excellent psychological thriller. All the tiny little things that stifle Ruth are so mundane and run-of-the mill. I recommend this book to anybody who is in a relationship with a control freak. I can identify strongly with Ruth's attempts to try and make and outsider understand quite what she is up against.
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on 2 November 2010
I see from Amazon that Philippa Gregory's book 'The little house' has been re-launched last month and has been turned into an ITV drama.

This book (new cover from the 1996 original) is one of Ms Gregory's non-historical fiction books which i happen to have read a long time ago. An old story re-hashed, hence the different cover.

Yes, this book is a well written and crafted book, although i found characters drippy or downright bossy and irritating.

What gives this 'phychological thriller' weight is the extremely good unexpected ending. It is deviously brilliant.

No, do not compare this 'Phychological thriller' to Ruth Rendell's novels (She has written some corkers, especially under the pen name Barbara Vine) or even Ms Rendell's style. This to me is just to give 'The little house' some credibility and boost sales.

This book has aged well and the story can still be enjoyed today for new readers.

I will give this book 4 stars out of 5 for the excellent ending, but mainly for the worm that turned.
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on 12 July 2006
You'll find your self gasping for air as ruths life spirals out of her control, very scary in a mind messing type way
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