All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The House Of Memories – Monica McInerney

on October 16, 2012

The House Of Memories
Monica McInerney
Penguin AU
2012, 473p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Ella O’Hanlon has been running for nearly two years now. She’s been travelling from one place to the next, working any job she can find, trying to forget the devastating tragedy that occurred that shattered her life beyond repair. Ella is incapable of talking to anyone about it and she wants to be as far away from the people in her old life as possible because all they want to do is talk about it, stirring up memories so painful that she cannot bear them.

She’s fled from Australia halfway around the world to London and her uncle Lucas. His multi-level terrace house was fascinating to her as a child and the two have maintained a close relationship over the years, exchanging hundreds of letters, faxes and emails. Lucas has a proposition for Ella, to keep her in one place for a while. A university lecturer and researcher, his house has always been open to an eclectic bunch of students who live with him while they conduct their PhD research and earn extra money by tutoring the sons and daughters of London’s rich on the side, organised by Lucas. Now several things have gone missing from the houses the students are tutoring at and Lucas wants Ella to find out who the culprit is discreetly.

Lucas also wants Ella to see that she’s not the only one hurting because of that devastating accident. It has affected so many people, not least of all Ella’s husband Aidan, whom she left, and her half sister Jess, whom she cannot bear to even think of, let alone talk to or even see. Ella blames the both of them for what happened, so deep in her grief and loss is she that she cannot even begin to understand how others feel, or the fact that her own way of dealing is devastating them even further.

Lucas and Ella’s step-brother Charlie know that trying to talk to her about anything will only result in her packing up and running again, somewhere far away. They hope to show her in a more subtle way that only by forgiving and reuniting with the people that are sharing her dark pain, can Ella heal.

My grandmother introduced me to Monica McInerney’s books some years ago and I’ve read several over the years and I think just about all of them have made me cry and this one is no exception. There are different levels of crying in books for me – the tearing up, the tears that leak out, the small sobs and then….ugly crying that cannot be stopped. And that’s the level this book achieved.

I found it very easy to put myself in Ella’s situation, because we have things in common. And the depth of pain that she was experiencing was so real, came through so strongly on the page that I couldn’t help but feel it as well. In Ella’s running, I saw a way in which I myself, would be tempted to deal with what she was going through. Keeping busy, keeping on the move, removing yourself from all of the memories (both the good and the terrible bad), cutting yourself off from family and people that love you, simply because they want to deal with it in a different sort of way. Ella is barely functioning when she arrives at Lucas’s house, she cleans obsessively just to keep herself busy, keep herself tired so she doesn’t have a chance of sitting down and relaxing and having a small memory creep into her brain. This is good in theory, but it isn’t always good in practice and Ella is often bombarded by her memories, including the ones of where she met Aidan, in this very house. Through Ella’s memories we learn her story, their story, because Ella is not grieving alone.

It’s very easy to forget about the man in a situation like this. But Aidan’s grief is just as devastating and all-encompassing as Ella’s, perhaps even more so because he knows that she partially blames him and she’s also left him as well. Sometimes I felt for Aidan even more than I did for Ella, his character was so powerful even though he didn’t often appear on the pages. He deals with his grief in a different way, the only way that he can in order to work through his own considerable pain. Where Ella seeks to keep it all in, locked away inside of her, Aidan does not.

This is a fabulously written book with truly beautifully constructed characters. The character of Jess, Ella’s half-sister and the other person Ella blames for her loss, was so well done. When she first appears on the page (the narrative is split between Ella, emails from Ella’s stepbrother and sometimes Lucas, Jess’s diary entries and letters written by a person left up to the reader to guess) she comes across as vain, shallow and spoiled and the reader has Ella’s perceptions of her sister to back up and colour their own. Slowly, over time and reveals does the true character of Jess emerge and yes, her story had me bawling too!

Despite the fact that I sobbed through some of this book (especially towards the end, I had to put aside until after my children had gone to bed, because I knew I was going to be that bad), or perhaps because of the fact that I sobbed through it, it’s become one of my favourite reads of the year. Maybe because I found it so easy to see myself as Ella. Maybe because I found their story so heartbreakingly beautiful. I almost never re-read sad books but this is one I can see myself re-reading, in fact I probably should re-read it because I think I’ll feel differently about things that occur in the earlier stages of the book now that I have the full story.

10/10

Book #206 of 2012

Stay tuned for a post coming soon detailing the day I got to meet Monica McInerney!

The House Of Memories counts towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. It’s the 68th novel read and reviewed so far.


6 responses to “The House Of Memories – Monica McInerney

  1. Marg says:

    So this is a read at home book, not a read on the train book! I need to try and find some time to read this one!

  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I loved this as well!

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