Our Houseby Louise Candlish Published 07 Aug 2018
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On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.
Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.
When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.
Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.
"Our House" Reviews
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Can you imagine coming home one day to find strangers moving their belongings into YOUR home? Unpacking and putting things away while you stand there in shock? Well, that’s exactly what has happened to Fiona Lawson in “Our House”.
The book starts off right at the heart of it. Our female protagonist, forty-two-year-old, Fiona Lawson is heading down her street and sees what looks like someone carrying items into her house. She thinks that she must be seeing things. But she’s not…two moving men are clearly walking down HER path, taking things into HER house.
She sees a woman who she thinks must be a friend of her estranged husband, Bram. But when she speaks to this woman she’s in no way prepared for what she hears.
“We’re just moving in. My husband will be here soon with the second van.”
She's also not prepared for what she sees inside the house. ALL of their things are gone. The house is empty…well except for the stranger’s things being moved in.
“I’m telling you – you must have made a mistake. I’m telling you it’s not possible for you to have bought a house that was never for sale.”
Prior to this, Fiona and her soon to be ex-husband, Bram have been sharing custody of their boys, as well as their house at 91 Trinity Avenue. Whoever's turn it is to be with the children stays in the house with them while the other parent stays somewhere else. It’s a fairly new and unique way of doing things. It’s called “ Bird’s nest custody”.
But right now Fiona has no idea what’s going on. Plus she can’t find Bram. She calls him but his phone is out of service. It’s like he’s fallen off the face of the earth. At that moment, she realizes her house is the least of her worries. Where is Bram? Where are her children?
“And in that instant, her waking nightmare becomes something so terrifying it has no name.”
This was such an interesting and unique read. I really enjoyed how the story was told with alternating perspectives. I also enjoyed the social media aspect. “The Victim” is a podcast where Fiona tells her story. Interspersed throughout the novel are comments from listeners of the podcast as well as excerpts from a word document that help to give readers another point of view.
“This was how human disaster worked: you began by trying to conceal a mistake and you finished up here, the perpetrator of a hundred further mistakes.”
Though I did figure out a couple of things ahead of time, I was still completely in the grip of this intriguing story. An interesting plot, some great characters, along with a few great twists made this a very enjoyable read. I really liked how everything came together in the end.
In my opinion, "Our House" was a well-written, intriguing domestic suspense novel that has me excited to see what Louise Candlish writes next!
I'd like to thank Berkley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Fiona ( Fi ) Lawson lives in a very desirable London suburb, and she always gets a warm tingly feeling when she enters her street. However, on this particular beautiful winter's day she spots a removal van outside her house - but it can't possibly be her house, the house a few doors down has been on the market, it must be that one. As she reaches her house, the realisation that someone is moving their furniture in, their personal possessions, hits her like a sledge hammer, but she'll sort it out ( won't she?) it's just a ridiculous mistake surely. Well actually no it isn't a mistake, and she desperately needs to contact her estranged husband Bram - problem is, Bram is nowhere to be found, and not only that, but their two boys Harry and Leo aren't where they should be either!
Well goodness me, what a roller coaster ride of a story this is, and what avenues it takes us down as deceit becomes the major player. It isn't a thriller in the normal sense of the word, but it's gripping nevertheless. The characters speak to us through various mediums, ( Bram via Word document ) and in that respect we get to know much more about Bram's part in all this than Fi does. You know the old saying "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we set out to deceive"? Absorb that thought because this is deceit at its most profound. Add in numerous twists and turns and you've got a real winner. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
* Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*
4, thrillers are really bad for me trusting other people, everyone is a liar stars!!!
Roll·er coast·er (roll·er coast·er): a thing that contains or goes through wild and unpredictable changes. Aye, you're not wrong there Webster.
This starts right out of the gate and immediately draws the reader in. We begin our story with Fiona (Fi) Lawson arriving home earlier than expected to see strangers seemingly moving furniture in and out of her home without understanding why. Upon entering, she and these strangers quickly realize that something is amiss. The Vaughns have just completed their purchase of a beautiful home, in an incredibly desirable neighborhood in London unbeknownst to Fi (the now previous owner). With this information, the story begins and Fi's life, falls apart.
This was one of the most cleverly written and formatted stories I've read in a long time. I've honestly never encountered anything quite like this and I really enjoyed it for the most part. We are given alternating POVs between Fi and the husband she is currently separating from, Bram. Not just are we given alternating POVs but the formatting of those views changes as well. Fi is now participating in a podcast called The Victim (think Serial) and she's telling her story first hand. We're also given commentary from the viewers in re-tweet fashion. I really enjoyed the alternating points of view but I will say the commentary from the viewers and their tweets grew tiresome and felt unneeded. In the end, it felt a little kitschy to me.
I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that it's hard sometimes to tell the difference between weakness and strength. Between hero and villain.
We're also given Bram's POV through a word document letter that allows the reader to follow along with the information Fi knows and what Bram knows to actually be happening on his end. Bram is a decidedly unlikable and unreliable narrator. However, Candlish did a superb job of creating a lot of empathy through Fiona's emotion and her connection to her soon-to-be ex-husband. Despite knowing that he was a Grade-A wanker I still felt for his story and through that, I felt a deeper connection to Fi.
No, it's not the sense of coming home. It's the understanding that what or where or who you love is only ever borrowed. There is no permanent ownership, not for any of us.
This ultimately loses a star for me because while it was consistently paced it started to drag a bit in the middle. I normally blow through these types of novels and they tend to be very much edge-of-your-seat, don't-talk-to-me-must-finish-now, and I didn't feel that for the entirety of this read. There wasn't wasted time on unnecessary characters, but it did feel there was a lot of wasted time on unnecessary detail.
However, despite this, when things picked back up in the last third of the book they certainly packed quite the punch. The twists for the most part (aside from one which didn't feel it had all the proper development) were everything a reader could want. I was both surprised and satisfied in the end. I completed this as a Traveling Sisters read and I'd certainly suggest it to anyone to pick up. I hadn't originally thought property fraud would be all that thrilling, but I'm happy to report I was yet again wrong!
Thank you to Edelweiss for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions presented are my own.
I'm going to keep this one short and sweet, because I've found I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already. This wasn't a bad read; the cover is inviting, the premise is brilliant, and there was even a nice twist thrown in, so I did enjoy this overall. My main issue was that the middle portion of the story felt bogged down. It could just be that I was in a funk when I picked this up and needed something a little more fast paced for the moment, but I felt the narrative was repetitive and that we were reading the same scenes again and again, which caused me to struggle for a bit. Overall, the majority has raved about this one and I think it's worth picking up to decide if you enjoy it for yourself. And by golly, that cover is quite stunning.
*I received a review copy via the publisher.
Oh my God, it’s been a long time since I’ve suffered through a book that made me want to just BE DONE WITH IT ALREADY! But this book, Our House, by Louise Candlish, just seemed to just go on and ON. Seriously, there was NO reason for this book to be 400 pages. There were way too many asides throughout this novel, which slowed the pace greatly and contributed to the superfluous word count. Not to mention, those peanut gallery comments from the “viewers” of the crime podcast that Fiona Lawson is telling her story to (which allows for the author, Louise Candlish, to tell Fiona’s story under the guise of recounting her story to these podcast listeners) really burnt my biscuit! They were so annoying, ridiculous and distracting that I trained myself to skip them entirely whenever I encountered them.
Though it is a genre I tend to enjoy for the most part (see my reviews of Ruth Ware and Fiona Barton) this novel was everything that I hate in British cozy thrillers: centered around a meek woman who’s “gullible” and made a victim as she tries to take back the power in the end. It also was not very well-written, quite honestly. Candlish has obviously never heard of Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory,” because, for this being a thriller, she certainly didn’t trust her reader to come to any conclusions on their own, which really took all of the bite and fun out of reading this book for me.
I recently joined a Twitter discussion where a very outspoken literary agent was asserting that reviewers should NEVER tag an author with a bad review because it’s “rude” and because these authors have already had countless people critiquing them and “professional editors” editing them. (This, by the way, was rather self-righteously stated as though literary agents and editors know best and as though their stamp of approval a good book makes. As a writer, former lit agent and former publishing intern, and current book reviewer I can confidently assert in response that this is not necessarily the case.)
Here, you fill a fantastic example of a book that needs further editing! Literally, my mind started wandering by page 60 as my mind started calculating how many paragraphs of text I’d just written that really could have been removed from my life altogether.
All in all, the premise of Louise Candlish’s Our House is phenomenal, the execution is mediocre if not terrible in parts, and the aside bits nearly drove me mad. If you’re looking for a streamlined, heart-pounding thrill of a ride, don’t waste your time with this one. I really don't have much else to say about this one because I've already turned my mind to finding my next book, which will have to be GREAT to wash away the annoyance I've built up from pushing through this one.
I have a friend who reads my reviews and once told me it’d be SO hilarious if I just wrote the word “TRASH” as a book review for the next truly terrible book I encounter and then just dropped the mike. I won’t do that here, but there were parts where I was honestly tempted. 2 stars for premise and premise alone -- and maybe even because I fancy the cover; it's brilliant! ;) . **
**I received an advance-read physical copy of this book from the publisher, Berkley, in exchange for an honest review.**
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A domestic noir novel that will pull you into the suspense and shock you with every last twist! Wow, I am beyond impressed with the new novel Our House by Louise Candlish! By 30% through this book, I couldn’t have put it down if I tried. I first was introduced to Candlish in her previous book The Sudden Departure of the Frasers. I loved that book, but this one shows a level of growth as a writer that has me positively glowing after reading it. This one took ahold of my life and didn’t release me. When I finally finished it, I couldn’t get over the ending for hours! I was shocked and excited—and I’m even more excited to share this with readers who will get to experience those twists for the first time!
About the Book
Fi and Bram have the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood. It’s the sort of neighborhood where outsiders clamor to get in, and insiders are desperate to stay in. The sort of neighborhood where all of the residents know how lucky they are to live there. And each time someone moves out, they are aware that none of them are truly entitled to that perfect life. They are all just barely able to afford it, and one wrong move could send it all tumbling down.
And for Bram and Fi, that wrong move comes from a marital indiscretion. Determined not to lose their dream home, even if she lost her dream husband, Fi and Bram set up a birds nest arrangement—the kids stay in the home, and Fi and Bram take turns living with them as the custodial parent. It’s the perfect arrangement—the boys get a stable environment, and Fi and Bram get to keep their perfect, just-out-of-reach home.
And then one day, Fi arrives home to see another family moving into her house. Frantic and assuming it is a mistake, Fi finds the nightmare only gets worse. The family claims they purchased the home from her and Bram. When Fi tries to reach Bram, his phone is disconnected. Even worse, the boys never arrived at school. As the details unfold, Fi realizes that she has become the victim of a crime most can only imagine, and the only way to hope to find justice means she’ll tell her story to the world…
I loved the story-telling mechanisms that Candlish uses in this book to keep the pace moving and the story fresh. The book begins the day Fi arrives home to see another family moving into her house. Then the book actually moves forward in time, but also into the past. Several weeks after Fi discovers the new family in her house, she is on a podcast called #Victim. In the podcast, Fi recounts her story from the beginning, all the way back when Bram first moved out. Fi hopes to bring awareness to this sort of real estate fraud, and prevent others from falling victim to the crime she fell victim to.
And then we have Bram’s story, written in the form of a letter to an unknown recipient at the same time Fi is on the podcast. They tell the story of their marital break up and the crime itself in perfect pace with one another. In a style that I’ve come to realize is classically Candlish, the story from each person keeps up with the other, and a revelation in one person’s story is then picked up in the other’s. In this way, the plot moves steadily, and little tidbits of information come to light, with spin from each party. And you get the distinct impression neither is telling the full truth.
The only thing better than one unreliable narrator is two unreliable narrators, amirite??
This book is truly a slow-burning, domestic noir masterpiece. I read this one over only a few days, and when I reached the last page I couldn’t even sit still because my mind was buzzing from the final scene! Candlish has a way of dropping hints that the reader completely overlooks. But as each twist is revealed, the hints add up and make you realize you probably should have been able to tell what was going on the whole time. That is how you begin to empathize with the characters. When the same things that fooled them, fool you as well.
Candlish is truly a master of crafting a carefully constructed plot that showcases how easy it is to be tricked into your worst nightmare. I am still buzzing from the final reveal days later! I can’t wait for readers to begin this one and experience all of the twists themselves!
Many thanks to Berkley for sending me an advanced reader copy of this novel to review. I loved it!