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Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2016
This book hooked me from the very first page – at first, a seemingly simple story about Jen and her daughter returning to her grandmother’s house to pack it up and sell it after her death, it became a complex tale about families, relationships and hidden secrets that twisted and turned and kept me absolutely spellbound. Anyone who remembers their stays with grandparents as a child will love the vignettes from Jen’s childhood, the memories of unaccustomed freedoms, the pleasures in small things, all beautifully drawn with the enigmatic Lily at their centre. The present day story is wonderfully handled too – the relationship between mother and daughter, the unexpected discoveries, Jen’s marriage and her relationship with her partner, and the fact that all is not as it initially appears.
I loved the use of text messages – at first, seemingly a device to show the nature of Jen’s relationship with her partner, but with a far greater relevance and meaning as the story unfurls, as what first seems loving and caring reveals something considerably darker. The layering of stories is accomplished with an assurance that sometimes takes your breath away – and I loved the thread of “magic” that permeates the book, the questions that arise about Lily, and the true nature of the whole range of relationships. The dark and chilling edge is unexpected, the revelations perfectly managed – the author leads you gently by the hand, your understanding as a reader growing as the book progresses, the truth slowly emerging around a whole range of issues, past and present. The writing is quite wonderful – descriptive and rich in detail (I particularly loved Lily’s photograph album and its secrets hidden and revealed) – and the characterisation very strong.
Others have called this book unforgettable – I can only agree, and highly recommend it to everyone. Whatever you expect as the story begins, your expectations will be totally confounded – and the whole journey you take is simply wonderful, led by a master storyteller. One very special book.
5.0 out of 5 starsGorgeously written and full of twists
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2016
A gorgeously written story of a woman reconnecting with her memories of a beloved but long-estranged grandmother, and finding the strength to face the truths about the problems in her own present.
Jen, deaf since childhood, spent many summers with her grandmother Lily at her home at the English shore. They were idyllic times, when Jen could feel safe and relaxed after months in the tense home made by her parents. But shortly after Jen's marriage Lily did something which upset Jen so much she refused to see her again. Lily has left her estate to Jen, though, so she reluctantly leaves behind her insecure, unemployed musician husband and travels with her 12-year old daughter to settle Lily's affairs. Jen always thought her grandmother was something of a witch, seeming to have a second site into coming events, and she is dreading returning to this place of such happy memories. Given a cool reception by Lily's friends upon her arrival, she struggles to finish her business and get back home, but each day finds her less and less inclined to do so, and she begins having disturbing conversations in her head with her grandmother as well as dreams which point to huge upcoming changes for herself and her family.
The characters are carefully drawn, with the flow of signed, lip-read, and spoken language interwoven effectively to give a sense of the isolation and survival tactics of a deaf person. The language is fresh and evocative:
"Here is the key with the loop of plaited string that surely, surely cannot be the one I made for her, decades ago."
"All I wanted was to try on Lily's things. First the jewelry, which - jackdaw that I am - still calls to me with a siren song."
"Maybe by the time I'm old, I'll reminisce fondly about the days when everyone sat around in couch-potato silence and stared with their mouths open at the 'same program'." (This one made me laugh out loud.)
The plot, filled with Jen's texts to and from her increasingly desperate husband, and alternating chapters filling in the past, pull the reader along to ever more layers of Jen's and Lily's pasts, with a wonderfully unexpected but perfect ending. So highly recommended!
4.0 out of 5 starsThis is rather a dark and thought provoking story.
Reviewed in the United States on January 4, 2017
This is rather a dark and thought provoking story covering heavy topics, but also has a kind of supernatural, magical feel throughout.
There was an interesting mix of characters. I wasn’t keen on Daniel or Jen, especially their obsession with inheritance, probably because I lost my own grandma a few months ago, and couldn’t even imagine looking upon her death as a way of inheriting money. Daniel was also far too needy, which really started making me feel uncomfortable as the story progressed. Lily had me intrigued. I also admired how 12 year old Marianne felt more like the adult and voice of reason than her own mum, Jen. I would say I warmed to Marianne the most.
Lily’s House is definitely an interesting read if you enjoy character led stories.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 17, 2016
I read this in two sittings, and couldn't wait to get back to it in between. It was a magical book, with characters who buried themselves under my skin with uncanny ease: I almost feel that Lily will be making an appearance in my dreams. The language is hauntingly beautiful, and the surprises dawn on you with an inevitability that only seems obvious in retrospect. It is an enchanting and thoroughly enjoyable read. Full marks from me for a deeply satisfying read.
5.0 out of 5 starsThis book is this writer's best yet and very highly recommended
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 20, 2016
This book had me in its grip , didn't let me go until the last page, and still it haunts me. The story centres on a woman who comes to clear the house of a dead relative and is drawn deeper and deeper into the secrets, the mysteries and the skeletons in her family's cupboard. Uncovering the layers of the past leads her to the heart of the dark web of secrets and to an agonising recognition of the realities of her own situation. Cassandra Parkin leads the reader through many twists and turns to the final shocking twist of the denouement and the resolution of the mysteries. This book is this writer's best yet and very highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 6, 2019
A book of secrets unfurled slowly from the past to the present, and forcing the spellbound reader to continue long after lights out. I highly recommend this novel. It's a slow burn but immensely satisfying.