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The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell was book of the month for our village book group. There was a wide variety of views about it, but here is mine. It was a long time since I had read a book by Lisa Jewell, but I recalled her as a diverting and tought-provoking author, so I was pleased to have a chance to catch up with her work again.

The Blurb

When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it back together? The Birds seem to be the perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country. But one Easter weekend, something happens - something so unexpected, so devastating, that no one can bring themselves to talk about it. The family shatters, seemingly for good.

Until, years later, they are forced to return to the house they grew up in, and to confront what really broke the family apart...

The Review

The Bird family, comprises Lorelei, her husband Colin and their four children – Megan, Bethan, and the twins Rory and Rhys who appear to have a perfect life in their large Cotswold home. Lorelei organises the traditional Easter egg hunt in the rambling garden each year, but one Easter Sunday tragedy strikes the family, Rhys commits suicide and none of them is ever the same again.

The story jumps backwards and forwards, which I hate. We first meet members of the family in 2011 when Lorelei's eldest child Megan and her teenage daughter Molly have the horrible task of sorting out the dilapidated house after Lorelei’s death. For reasons which become clear as the story progresses, Lorelei had become an extreme hoarder. (It made me think of the TV programmes about hoarders where people can’t move around their house for the stuff they have accumulated.) Lorelei ended up living just one room, waking and sleeping on the chair because even the bed was covered in stuff.

This is not a fluffy light hearted read, it has its darker moments and covers some difficult issues. My main issues with this story were that some of the sub-plots were incredible. When Lorelei takes up with the woman next door, her husband, Colin, doesn't leave: he just goes to live in another part of the house. In fact, Colin is so spineless that when he does travel, eventually, he moves in with his son's former lover. Really?

Likewise Beth, who has an affair with her sister's husband, leaves to go to Australia but comes back, preganant by IVF and moves into her mother's old home.

The topics covered were interesting, but there was not enough filth descibed amongst Lorelei's detritus, and I couldn't help wondering why Colin had never stepped in to get his wife the help she so obviously needed, for the sake of the children, as well as for her.

To me this book is interesting, but flawed, much like the family it protrays.

The Author

Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968.

Her first novel, Ralph's Party, was the best- selling debut novel of 1999. Since then she has written another twenty novels, most recently a number of dark psychological thrillers, including The Girls, Then She Was Gone, The Family Upstairs and The Night She Disappeared.

Lisa is a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestselling author who has been published worldwide in over twenty-five languages. She lives in north London with her husband, two teenage daughters and the best dog in the world.

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