“Accidental Damage” is the first book in a trilogy,”The House That Sat Down”, which is dominated by a life changing event; the partial collapse of a family home. The book is the story of a painter, a mother, a wife, whose comfortable existence is turned upside down when her house disintegrates before her eyes.The reason it does so is an important question which will thread throughout the book, as alongside the obvious disruption to the daily lives of the family, the author blames herself as she set up the house insurance which will dominate the narrative. There is a certain amount of family togetherness through adversity, and each personality becomes plain. The children are rather endearingly referred to as the Barbarians, realistically described as individuals who can act as a body on occasion. Her partner, referred to as “Beloved Husband”, is a supportive and engaged character whose personality is revealed throughout the book. As weather, logistics and many other issues cause the writer upset and dismay, this is an honest account of life at its most basic where a comfortably set up family is suddenly in trouble, and the implications are disturbing. I was interested to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual and deeply felt book.
The book begins with the revelation that the author is a reasonable painter who has not actually kept up her art for several years. Each of her children is mentioned, partly via their reaction to their mother’s actions. They are known by nicknames; the oldest daughter is called Chaos, partly as a result of a sudden illness previous to the house collapse. The next oldest is Logic, dedicated cook and level headed. Quiet is a teenage boy known for eating huge amounts, which apparently they all do, and making meaningful pronouncements. Small is the youngest, a boy of great activity.
Suddenly one day large cracks appear in the old part of the house, reputed to be over three hundred and fifty years old. The couple had been told that the central cottage part of the house was sturdy if distant from town. They had added to the accommodation but with careful and professional extensions, and they survive the apparently spontaneous catastrophe. The immediate need is for accommodation for the family of six, and as they live near to a holiday resort every room is booked solidly for the next few days. The kitchen, a bathroom and a dining space have survived, and they manage to rescue bedding and most of their belongings from the increasingly dangerous part of the house. A large tent is borrowed, but as the weather deteriorates and storms are frequent, the family face the possibility of being permanently separated.
The battles with the elements and the logistics form the practical difficulties, more insidious is the despair as the insurance company will not provide the funds for a rebuild or even repairs. The discussions with the company are protracted and painful. The hopes dashed and fears for the future which accompany the cramped and uncomfortable conditions under which the family live contrast with the genuine affection they have for each other, and there are moments of gentle humour and insight. I enjoyed this book for its charm and wit, and greatly look forward to reading the other books in the series.