Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Ella first met her English uncle when she was seven and instantly fell in love with his unruly house filled with foxes, from the door knocker to the stuffed fox cub on her uncle’s desk. Though she was only at the house for a short while before she and her parents flew back to their home in Australia, a bond was formed between him and Ella.
Ella and Lucas wrote to each other during the subsequent years, initially by letter and fax before moving on to email. Despite the many miles separating them, Lucas was always there for Ella when it seemed like nobody else was; when her parents divorced and her mother quickly remarried, when Ella’s father died unexpectedly and when Ella’s new baby sister arrived and claimed everybody’s attention.
Now in her thirties, Ella is returning to London to stay with Lucas, hoping to forget about the life she had back in Australia. Her memories are too painful and she tries every tactic possible to keep her mind busy so she doesn’t remember. When Lucas offers her a job, Ella uses it as another distraction from her grief.
Ella has been running away from her husband, Aidan, moving across Australia and now to England. She refuses to have anything to do with her half-sister, Jessica, despite the pleading from her mother who can see both sides of the story. But Ella, blinded by grief, can only concentrate on her own pain, pain she blames on Aidan and Jessica.
The House of Memories is told mainly from Ella’s point of view, but has added heartfelt letters from Aidan and diary entries from Jessica, which adds depth to the story, covering all angles. I could understand Ella’s heartbreak and didn’t think I would ever see Jessica as anything other than a spoilt attention seeker, but as the story progressed, I found myself sympathising with her too. She was still very much a princess who relied heavily on her parents despite being in her early twenties, however there is more to Jessica –and her story – than first appears.
Ella had never had a particularly close bond with her mother, especially after Jessica’s arrival, so it was good that she had Lucas on her side for support, even if he was on the other side of the world. I thought their relationship was lovely, but my favourite relationship was between Ella and her stepbrother, Charlie, particularly when they were young. It was sweet, fun and heart-warming to read the scenes where they were growing up together.
The House of Memories wasn’t entirely what I was expecting from the blurb, but while it was different, I enjoyed it very much. The subject matter is an extremely emotional one, but the book isn’t all doom and gloom or depressing. In fact, I found it quite inspiring as Ella fought her way through her grief and started to emerge from the other side.