Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Smell of Other People’s Houses – Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

The Smell of Other People's Houses - Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Can you picture flowers in a whisky bottle? I can; Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock did and this conjuring permeates the pages of this novel beautifully. It's her debut and my goodness....

From the visceral first pages, I was already in a different time and place, and the novel kept me right there with Ruth, Dora, Dumpling and Alyce in rural 1970s fishing and hunting Alaska. The time and setting were refreshingly different to read about.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses has a charm and poignancy that avoids a sickly nostalgia by moving swiftly (and sometimes matter-of-factly) through a very busily interweaved plot: Catholicism, teen pregnancies, broken families, perfect families, poverty, small town social stratifications, territorial and indigenous politics, and naked boys in convent gardens. It’s all there, and told from a number of diverse teen characters' perspectives.

There is a lot of plot in this novel, but it also lingers in wonderfully and often comically observed social scenes. The Smell of Other People’s Houses captures a wonderful and loving sense of a changing time and place and the characters who live in these pages are a delight.

I adored it.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses has been nominated for the 2017 Carnegie medal.

Publication details: 2016, Faber & Faber, London, paperback

This copy: received for review from the publisher

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