Book Reviews

Book Review: The House Book

The House Book

By Susan Greenwood

Published in 2018

307 Pages

When Janie and Rob Whittaker decide to leave London for a simpler life, they buy a centuries-old house in Sussex.  Along with the house, Janie receives the House Book, a collection of information on the former occupants of the home, and the diary of Alice Crayford, one of its 17th century mistresses.

As Janie becomes absorbed in Alice’s diary life, she discovers she and her husband are more connected to the house than she could have imagined.  However, not all of her discoveries bode well for her future and there may be ghosts in the house that need to be laid to rest.

Another not-new book but I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited because it was comped to Kate Morton.  This comp worked in the sense that the story revolved around a country house, but that’s where the comparison ended.

First, let me say that this was a great story – for about the first half of the novel.  Then the author lost me.  I understand what the author was attempting to do with weaving in the past (set in the mid-1600s) and the present (set in 1985), but I felt like she’d start down one road then veer off to follow another one before tying up the first plot thread, with the end result that none of them were satisfying.

This next bit might sound muddled, but this is my recollection of the plot.  There was a curse, maybe.  Janie decided to leap into tracing her family’s history and genealogy since they mysteriously moved away over something she might or might not have caused, and somehow she conflated this event with the “curse.”  I never did follow the trail of who was descended from whom very well, but it turned out that their connection with the house had to do with her husband’s parentage, not so much with Janie.  However, the part where they should have told him, and brought closure to the story, was skipped over in favor of showing Janie with a happy family five years down the road.  My takeaway was this: her fears were ungrounded and nothing in her life was actually connected to Alice and this “curse.”  So it all felt a little pointless.

This novel could have been a great time-slip book.  It flirted with that structure, but the “past” chapters were used as a vehicle to add details to the diary entries instead of providing a fully fleshed-out secondary story, save for the prologue and last chapter. 

I’ll wrap up my review by saying although not a bad read, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I rated this book 2.5 stars.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.

History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt.

Guy Vanderhaeghe

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