Our House is very entertaining, it’s a quick read that plumbs the depths of our everyday fears to great effect. A domestic psychological drama with wider thriller themes. A lot of fun.
Ask yourself this, when you learn that Fi has been ousted from her £2.4M house do you feel sympathy for her plight or envy that she lived in such a valuable house in the first place? It’s one of the questions posed by this modern-day nightmare. It’s not a fair question, you haven’t opened the novel yet, you don’t have the facts, but does that stop you from judging Fi and her situation? Others in the novel judge her, it’s the social media commentary that runs throughout the story that makes us engage with diverse opinions and reflect on what we know, and what we think we know, when we are in the mood to pontificate on other people.
I took a while to warm to this novel, there’s a bit too much chopping and changing between aspects of the story, characters and time lines early on, that broke the story up before it began. It’s a little bit disconcerting but then it’s sort of meant to be, so stick with it if you feel the way I did. However, when Our House does take off we have a full on roller-coaster ride; action, emotional intensity and psychological game playing all feature. Our House ramps up the tension, always keeping the reader guessing and the denouement has a couple of decent twists. The novel is fast paced with more than a touch of wit.
January, 2017, Fiona ‘Fi’ Lawson returns to London on Friday 13th. She sees a van unloading furniture into her home. When she questions Lucy Vaughan, the new ‘owner’, she can’t comprehend what has happened. All her belongings have gone, Lucy appears to have documents to prove that the house belongs to the Vaughan’s as of noon that day. They bought the place for £2M, below market value. But this is crazy because Fi did not sell her house. Why can’t she get hold of her ex-husband Bram?
Our House is a gripping read because it feeds on a modern day primal fear – property. The idea that, on one apparently ordinary day, you could lose the second most important thing in your life destabilising everything. That’s assuming family is more important than bricks and mortar!
The use of the podcast creates a forum for third parties to have a say in the developing story. We see a rush to judgement, even a desire to mock. Even if this were not a thriller the sort of reactions Fi’s broadcast gets put you in mind of the way people polarise around breakups and make judgements about people:
“@natashaBwriter Her problem is she’s too passive-aggressive with the ex….”
“@LuluReading I’m sorry, but this #VictimFi *is* a bit of a f*ckwit….”
“@tillybuxton #VictimFi is her own worst enemy, isn’t she?….”
It’s interesting how people feel they have the right to an opinion (I haven’t contextualised any of these contributions to avoid spoiling the story). This puts people in the story who would not normally be there, are they like us, after all when we read we judge? Candlish has fun playing with perceptions, what you think at the start will not be how you feel at the end. I was sceptical of the social media aspect but it really works. Very entertaining.
Paul Burke 4*
Our House by Louise Candlish
Simon & Schuster UK 9781471168062 pbk Sep 2018