Book Review: The House by Simon Lelic

What’s it about?

Jack and Syd moved into their dream house a year ago. It took all of their money, but it was worth it. Until a grisly discovery in the attic leads them to rethink whether this is a dream or a nightmare. And then someone is murdered outside the back door…

My thoughts

Oh dear. That was my main thought upon finishing this book. I had such high hopes: the premise sounded intriguing, and it had been lauded to the skies in various reviews. Yet it left me cold and thinking of all the other books I could have read instead. Not really what you’re wanting from a novel, is it?

My first gripe was the narrative style. It bounces between the two main characters in a sort of collaborative faux-diary style. Not usually my cup of tea, but I thought I’d give it a go and suspend my dislike. However, it just didn’t work. Personally I think the author’s voice is never so apparent as when they’re trying to write in a conversational style, and that was the case here.

Then it shifted, with the faux-diary becoming part of the plot (yes, I know) and I was even more unmoved. I found that while the tennis match of narrators wasn’t for me, it did give the plot some momentum. Changing that focus left the story stumbling and the pace didn’t recover.

My second gripe was around the characters. Jack and Syd didn’t seem very well suited, nor particularly fond of each other. There does need to be some commonality in fictional relationships, people can’t be just thrown together and work. Every other character seemed a caricature of themselves: the evil father; the abused daughter; the beaten wife. There was no spark to them, and so chipped away a bit more of the book’s potential.

My third gripe was the plot. It was somehow both unbelievable and predictable. I could see what was coming miles off, like some poorly staged magic trick. It reminded me at times of children squabbling in the playground, such was the heft of the storyline. Additionally, I did wonder whether the author had ever bought a house before, as he seemed to have little clue about how it worked.

I did like the idea behind the story, but not the story itself. It needed to be better thought out and better executed to ultimately hang together. I was also under the impression that Penguin were marketing this as a horror-crime based around a creepy house, so when I found that the property itself was a bitplayer, I was disappointed.

Would I recommend it?

Nope. I wouldn’t.

The House by Simon Lelic is published by Penguin priced £7.99.

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