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Our House


Our House

“He said, she said” novels of suspense have been all the rage, particularly since the popularity of GONE GIRL. But rarely have they been as twisty and unexpected --- not to mention innovative in their structure --- as in Louise Candlish’s OUR HOUSE, which takes this storytelling technique to a whole new level.

Fiona and Bram Lawson have it made. They have two boys who are (mostly) well-behaved, have jobs that they excel at, and --- most importantly --- live in the prettiest house in a desirable, upmarket neighborhood in South London. The Lawsons got lucky --- they bought their home right on the cusp of the real estate boom --- and now they’re living in a house that they (especially Fi) not only love but that also represents their financial security.

"OUR HOUSE is a suspense novel for the current moment --- as much about real estate as is it about marital distrust and secrecy."

But when Bram’s latest infidelity strikes a little too close to home (the backyard playhouse, to be exact), Fi has had enough. She knows she can’t live with him anymore, but she also doesn’t want to sell their house. She says she doesn’t want to uproot the boys, but she might have her own selfish reasons for wanting to stay --- and on a practical level, she knows that it would be impossible for them to purchase two single-family homes in the same neighborhood on their separate salaries. Instead, Fi proposes a so-called bird’s nest custody agreement, where the boys stay in the family home, and Fi and Bram alternate staying there and caring for them. On their “off” nights, they take turns staying at a studio flat nearby.

At first, the couple’s ground rules appear to be solid --- the boys seem well-adjusted, and their friends all marvel at how progressive and collegial their separation seems to be. But then, a few months into this new arrangement, Fi returns home from a few days away with her new boyfriend, and encounters a strange couple moving their things into the house. Bram and the boys are nowhere in sight, and the young couple who has taken possession of the house appears to have legally purchased it from “Mr. and Mrs. Lawson.” But how is that possible? Where is Bram? And how on earth did it come to this?

This last question is what occupies much of Candlish’s novel, which opens with the mystifying scene described above and then travels both forward and backward in time, in sections narrated from the points of view of both Fi and Bram. Fi’s backstory is narrated as a transcript of a true-crime podcast, complete with listener comments. Meanwhile, Bram’s confessional account is framed as a suicide note. These alternating narratives are also interspersed with a narrative starting at that pivotal, confusing moment when Fi discovers the interlopers in her home and moves forward in time, as readers start to piece together from these various elements the story of what really happened.

Like any good story with a structure like this, “what really happened” is consequently shifting as readers learn more, have their assumptions upended, and gradually (or suddenly) grasp the truth. Along the way, readers --- along with perhaps the characters themselves --- will question whom they can trust, whose accounts to believe, and what surprising new turn the narrative will take next. OUR HOUSE is a suspense novel for the current moment --- as much about real estate as is it about marital distrust and secrecy.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 17, 2018

Our House
by Louise Candlish