A comedy drama written from the point of view of a house are rare, so this is the second one I have read and reviewed from the clever author Samantha Henthorn. Dealing in huge events and small details is a skill within a unified narrative, let alone creating and sustaining fascinating characters, and this book demonstrates that skill with humour thrown in. Contemporary life on a street up north can often be cliched, but Henthorn manages a novel which tackles that straight on as she recounts the story of Number One Curmudgeon Avenue in Book One of the Terraced House Diaries. Henthorn uses her flair for lively narrative to tell the story of Edna and Edith, unloving sisters who have come to inhabit Number One after a series of exciting events in both of their lives. Although referring to some characters who featured in previous novels, this book is very readable as a standalone volume, as it very much features stories of its own. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lively book.
The story of how Edna and Edith move into the “proud, yet grouchy Victorian terrace” is entertaining, featuring a badly transported animal and a couple “taken too soon (in their mid – nineties)”. Not that the house is impressed. Edna is the oldest sister, bossy and inhabiting one of the attic bedrooms, while Edith is in one of the back bedrooms, while using the understairs cupboard as a safe refuge when life gets complicated (or a “chill out” space as she later describes it). The four storey house is not, to its great grief, in a good state, and a leaking roof forces the sisters to get quotes for its repair. Meanwhile the widowed Edith is on the look out for a new romance, despite the advice of her sister and the self serving objections of her objectionable son Ricky. When Edna instructs Edith to place a card advertising for a lodger in the window of Mrs Ali’s shop, the real difficulties begin. As an unusual group of people appear in and around the shop, old and painful memories surface as well as new and exciting gossip for the characters in the book. The woefully unappealing Harold Goatshed is in the background much to several people’s disgust, and the book looks at his persistence and mentions his odious determination to become a resident and more.
This is a memorable book as it deals with characters who seem to have few attributes to recommend them. The style of writing is undoubtedly lively, hinting at other tales and further stories that may well appear later or in other places. Some of the events recorded in this fiction of unhealthy life in a northern suburb boarder on subtle fantasy, while others are pretty basic. The characters are undoubtedly unusual in some ways in their motives, but often dramatically realistic in their behaviour. This is a lively and interesting book which is easy to read and certainly unusual, and is memorable for its perspective and witty look at life.