Redemption by Alice May, the third book in “The House that Sat Down” trilogy – the end or a new beginning?


The house fell down in part one, the rebuilding of the house and the writer began in the second part, and in book three many strands come together. Alice May is a painter, yet the trauma of the family house falling down and the associated disasters meant that she had a long break from the creative outlet that she loved. In this volume she is painting and creating pictures with a will, but the problem of Mortimer the mortgage is causing difficulties. Having had to take out a huge mortgage in order to pay back the extra costs of the rebuild, Alice and Beloved Husband are working to earn sufficient money. Worse still, they will have to try to sell the house which is now in perfect order in its beautiful setting in order to pay back the money used to set it right. The pressure of this together with missing the two older daughters Chaos and Logic is telling on the author, and in at least one of the time sections she is persuaded to make changes in her life. Belonging to the local Women’s Institute leads her into strange performances, and she is also thrown into the company of brilliant women who offer challenges. Once more I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review one of these lively books.


As in the first two books the writer’s style is witty, charming and keeps moving through the minor incidents of contemporary life, such as waiting in the Post Office queue in embarrassing company. It is genuinely funny in so many respects, as the sons, still referred to as the Barbarians, have mock fights and battles at all times. The writer’s inner voice leads her into all sorts of trouble, and reflects the advice of her loved ones to try to exploit her creative talents. She is put under pressure to do a talk to a group found by her mother, and it is her preparation and fear of this challenge that pushes her narrative. She tries to get into an exercise class but is foiled by timetable confusions, with funny repercussions. Skelly the skeleton is still very much in evidence, and it is in the attempt to hide him from potential house purchasers that Alice starts more local rumours. She is suddenly seized by the urge to write her story down, and is compelled to spend many hours sat at an ancient laptop creating a manuscript. When it is finished her daughters put pressure on her to combine her offer to the group as writer, artist and speaker, and this is the background to the present set of books.


I have enjoyed these books; Alice May has a personal and enjoyable writing style which has made for a well paced trilogy with a lot of humour. It is very revealing of contemporary family life in a realistic way, where the children are not saintly but equally not not disturbed and causing real trouble.  The emergence of the author from her family is fascinating, showing a balance between the growth in independence of young people as they become adults, but also their familiar reliance on their parents and siblings for support. These three books are the story of a house, but really the story of a family which values each member and derives much humour, entertainment and support not only from a building, but also a family network that can withstand so much.        

Restoration – the Second book of “The House that Sat Down” trilogy by Alice May – the story continues


The “Restoration” of a house seems to suggest that it would be a straightforward process, but this is a family house, and the author Alice May with her trademark humour, gentle angst and perceptive insights gives far more detail about what really happens. The author has introduced  the Barbarians (her children), the Beloved Husband and herself in the gently humourous “Accidental Damage”, being the first part of “The House That Sat Down” trilogy, and suggests that much of this second book depends on having read that account. Basically, the family house was partially of three hundred year old “cob” construction, and repeated storms have taken its toll on the walls meaning that two huge cracks had developed and rendered that part of the house too dangerous to enter, let alone live in. The family’s trials and tribulations go further than having to sleep in a tent however; the risk of a long term exclusion from the house means that the children may have to be sent away indefinitely. This book goes on from the low point to at least a partial solution as some of the walls are to be rebuilt, but even the start of the process seems fated as unexpected visitors to the house threaten to block the road. It describes the highs and lows of the process of rebuilding, and the challenges that it presents to the writer. A book of highs and lows, humour and hope, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


This book, like the first, runs in two time sequences. The present day is full of the changes familiar to many, the coming to terms with children growing up and leaving home for university. It can be a challenging time, and in this author thinks back to another difficult time as the builders eventually begin to demolish two walls of the house. This reveals far more than an empty space; the revelation of bedrooms quickly abandoned and possessions displayed subdues even the most boisterous of boys. The unexpected expenses of the project drops a bombshell on the family, and the narrator feels it particularly as she is concerned for the long term future of the family. There are still lighthearted moments, as Thor wields his hammer of destruction and Skelly is displayed, and an exercise class timetable confuses attempts to get fit. The decline of the author’s health and the development of her paintings make for a well balanced narrative.


This book is a worthy continuation of the first book, continuing the themes of family unity in the face of adversity and the basic problems of losing part of a house. The fact that it is a varied and nuanced story with great wit and charm makes it a very readable account. The pictures and paintings that the author describes punctuate the narration and give a  fascinating insight into her state of mind. This is a memorable series of books which have a gentle humour which carries the writing through into a rather special account of a family’s experience.     

Accidental Damage by Alice May – Book 1 of the House that Fell Down trilogy


“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.