Book review: The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver
The Whitehorns' family home is that perfect Cornish dream'¦ a solid, stone house perched on a cliff top, white jasmine dancing over the windows, and looking out over a glittering blue sea.
But all is not as it should be this summer as dad goes missing, mum is acting mysteriously, married daughter Stella is at loggerheads with her teenage son, and Amy has a boyfriend she appears to dislike intensely. Could change be in the air?
Immerse yourself in Jenny Oliver’s fabulous new family drama and enjoy meeting a cast of irresistibly real characters who could well live on a street near you.
Oliver – whose The Sunshine and Biscotti Club was nominated for the Best Contemporary Romantic Novel at the RONA awards, and most recent book, The Summerhouse by the Sea, was a runaway bestseller on Amazon – is on cracking form in this enchanting trip to sunny Cornwall.
This is an author who understands what family life is all about… the frustrations, the compromises, the rivalries, the loyalties, the sharing, the caring, and the hidden bonds that draw us together more tightly than we had ever suspected.
It’s the summer holidays and well-known newspaper columnist Stella and her family are heading for her parents’ home in Cornwall. It should be a happy time but things are not what they seem.
Seven-year-old Rosie has eaten too many sweets and been sick, husband Jack doesn’t seem his usual supportive self, and the real purpose of the visit is to collect moody teenage son Sonny who has been staying with his grandparents after causing too many problems at school, and for Stella.
And now Stella’s mum Moira has just informed Stella on her mobile phone that her father, Graham, has been missing for 24 hours after a shopping trip.
What is even more worrying for Stella is that her mother who, she discovers on arrival at her idyllic childhood home, is sporting Per Una jeans that little Rosie says are just like the ones her Barbie doll wears, seems curiously unfazed by dad’s absence.
In fact, Moira appears more eager to talk about her mysterious new dog-walking buddy Mitch… a man who, Sonny tells them, is ‘a hippy.’
And to crown it all, Stella’s eternally childlike sister Amy turns up with her wisecracking new boyfriend Gus who soon makes himself at home with the family. So why does Amy appear to actively dislike him, and why doesn’t she even know his surname?
Everyone seems to have a secret to hide and as the past and the truth slowly start to unravel, the Whitethorns are in for some big surprises… and some big changes.
The House We Called Home is a perfect summer read, blending the author’s warm and insightful exploration of family relationships between the generations with a story full of love, humour, mystery, exquisitely drawn characters, and a show-stealing Border collie called Frank Sinatra.
Oliver knows what makes people tick – their flaws, foibles and fears – and translates those recognisable and very human traits into stories that entertain and delight, and leave her readers feeling warm and uplifted.
Sparkling summer fiction from the queen of feel-good…
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)