The Ladies of the House is a story about many things, but what stands out to me the most are the themes of longing, oppression and the unfairness of life.
On a sweltering July day, three people are found dead in a dilapidated house in London’s elegant Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakeable feeling that she is somehow to blame.
How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, in the double life of Marie’s father Arthur, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house . . .
Stylish, enchanting and deliciously atmospheric, this is a tragicomic novel about hidden love, second chances and unlikely companionships, told with wit, verve and lingering power.
First off, i have to say that this novel is quite depressing in its subject matter and at times I struggled reading it. At points it really made me feel sad and even disgusted, which didn’t make it perhaps the most enjoyable novel to get immersed in, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a well-written, interesting story.
The novel feels a little slow at times, but I feel like this builds up the character development and narrative further, making you feel like you really know some of the women personally; it’s like you’ve been there in their crazy/ horrible/ mundane lives. The mix of backgrounds and classes of Arthur’s ‘women’ are intriguing to read about. Some of the characters I really felt empathy for, some I felt hugely frustrated with and just wanted to grab and shake some sense into, whilst others I absolutely HATED with a passion. The fact that The Ladies of the House stirred up such strong emotions in me whilst reading it is a testament to the skilled character creation and writing of author Molly McGrann!
At times I did get a little confused about who everyone is as it flicks back and forth between characters a lot, and also between timescales too, and sometimes you don’t return to the narrative of a character you’ve met earlier on for quite a while! However it wasn’t long before I figured out who was who, and I then remembered how they are connected to the storyline, an aspect of The Ladies of the House that I love.
The writing flows well and the plot and characters are complex and multi-faceted without being completely baffling. I felt that the ending was quite abrupt but this fitted in well with the subject matter, though I would have liked a bit more of a ‘tying up’ of certain elements, just because I wasn’t sure I completely got the ending myself!
I’m really glad that I got the chance to read this skilfully crafted (though at times shocking) book with added substance!
~ The Ladies of the House is published in the UK on March 26th 2015.
Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an Advance Reading Copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.