‘House of Sticks’ by Peggy Frew

I was looking forward to House of Sticks by Peggy Frew – it was getting rave reviews, including this enticing description of Frew’s style – “Helen Garner meets Henry James”.

I love Helen Garner! I really love Henry James!

Oh dear. I didn’t love House of Sticks.

It’s the story of Bonnie, a musician who gave up performing to become a stay-at-home mum. She tells herself she has no regrets, but sometimes the isolation and the relentless demands of three small children threaten to swamp the love between Bonnie and her partner, Pete.

I won’t dwell too much, short of saying I found the characters obvious and one-dimensional. Frew’s attempt to build tension around the character of Doug, a family friend, seemed contrived. Yet, just when that part of the story is progressing, it falls away and other characters become the focus.

Peppered throughout the story are Frew’s close observations of everyday life –

“Pete passed her the cup, and she fitted it to the thermos and wound it tightly, feeling the seal take hold.”

Again, I wasn’t a fan. These little details didn’t read seamlessly with the rest of the text. Maybe if I was a Year 12 student using this book as a study text I’d look for all the nice analogies that are no doubt buried within the pages. But I’m not a Year 12 student, I’m a mum who was looking forward to a good beach read. Bummer.

Read House of Sticks with an ice-cold Vitamin Water – you’ll need the energy.

1/5 (in other words, stick to Garner and James).


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