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the house we grew up in – lisa jewell

The House We Grew Up In

I received a free review copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I managed to get ARC copies of Lisa Jewell books very close together, and read them just one book apart. However, this is very different from The Third Wife, which I reviewed here

Megan has brought her teenage daughter to the pretty Cotswold house where she grew up, as her mum has died, and being the pragmatic, organised one of her siblings, she has taken control of clearing the house.

Over the years Megan’s mum, Lorelei, has made the house completely uninhabitable for anyone other than herself – a victim of her incessant hoarding. 

Gradually, she is joined by her father and siblings, and they delve into their past, trying to pinpoint why Lorelei turned into this person. The layers of their family story are peeled back, one by one, through Lorelei’s long-term relationship with the woman next door that ended her marriage and split their ‘happy’ family, through Megan’s sister’s betrayal, one brother’s inability to grow up and take any responsibilities, her other brother’s tragic secret and what she views as her father’s irresponsible actions.

Can the family be brought back together by facing up to each other and finally dealing with their shared past? Could Lorelei’s sad end actually signal a new beginning for them?

After reading them so close together, obviously I will compare Jewell’s two books, and I have to say that this one comes out head and shoulders above The Third Wife.

Although there is still a large familial cast, the characters all feel a little more realistic. I think it may be because we go right back to their past and see why they all act in certain ways.

I am a hoarder myself, and the thought of reading about it scared me – I may hoard tonnes of stuff, but I don’t see myself as ending up like one of those old people you see on documentaries where they have to climb over stacks of newspapers to get into a tiny space to sleep in the rags they walk around in and then have to poo in carrier bags because they can no longer get upstairs to the bathroom.

The subject was really carefully handled, with some wonderful insights into what may happen to somebody to make them act in such an extreme way – how the family noticed it starting to happen, but were so wrapped up in their own lives that they kept making excuses to not tackle it at the time, and then…it was too late.

A sad, poignant tale that took a bright, vibrant family and showed how over the years, the colour and life just drained from them, accompanied by a bit of a thriller as the events leading up to the sunny afternoon that changed everything are slowly unravelled.

If you’re only going to read one of the two recent Jewell books, make it this one!

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