My daughter alerted me to this book because the subject matter relates to the subject matter in my own novel, Absent Children. However, although Paper House is also set in my old home town of Mt Eliza, the book differs greatly from Absent Children in other aspects.
I really enjoyed reading it, although ‘enjoyed’ doesn’t feel like the right word for a story about a depressed woman slipping into serious mental illness after her baby girl is stillborn, but apart from the depressing subject matter, the novel has many positives.
The beginning was slow to grab me, but the interesting style of writing kept me reading until I was gripped with the desire to read on for answers to the questions that arose for me. The writing was visceral, abandoned, and connected me with Heather, the mourning mother, deeply.
My heart fell out on a spring morning, the kind that rose coolly in the east and set brightly in the west.
The chapters alternate between the adult Heather’s viewpoint, and the viewpoint of Heather as a child. It is through the child’s voice that the reader learns about her mother’s fragile mental state.
We just sit there in her bed, waiting to hear the rest of her wish, but she has her eyes closed. Then Fleur says, Lame! and gets out of bed, and I stroke Mummy’s hair and she is crying.
I’m sorry, I say. I’m sorry.
The story is propped up with some colourful characters, especially Heather’s neighbour, Syliva, the local storekeeper, Rupert, and Noel, the man who lives at the bottom of her garden. And orbiting around her, worrying and trying to care for her is her sister, Fleur, her loving and patient husband, Dave, and her dad.
I imagine this is not a book that everyone would enjoy, but I’d highly recommend having a look at it if you’re at all intrigued. Don’t judge it too quickly, because if you’re like me, it takes a few chapters before it holds you fast in it’s grip.
Paper House is available in good Australian bookstores, and on the Amazon.com.au Kindle Store.