The House by Simon Lelic

A review of the psychological thriller novel The House by Simon Lelic.

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The House is a psychological thriller set in London. Sydney and Jack can’t believe their luck when their offer is accepted on a three-bedroom house in the perfect location. All the previous owner’s possessions come with the house. Over the next few weeks, strange things start happening, leading to tragic events.

This book is a bit of an enigma, and I’m not quite sure how to review it. As a novel—without the expectations of genre—it is well-written with good character development. As a psychological thriller, it sort-of-fails on all fronts.

I’ll start with the positives. The story is told from the perspective of both main characters: one chapter written by Jack, the next by Sydney. This does add a different dynamic to the tale as they tell different parts to the story. The characters of both protagonists develop at a good pace and, although they are not particularly likeable (which is not a criticism in itself), you can begin to understand what has brought them to this point. Over the chapters we learn all about their childhoods, their relationship and a little about the house.

Then the negatives. What we learn about their childhoods, their relationship and about the house doesn’t help build the reader’s connection to the characters or improve the storyline. For me, it felt very contrived and forced. I think readers are supposed to feel sorry for Sydney, but I could not manage that much sensitivity for her. The other characters that are introduced throughout the story serve their purposes, but I found them somewhat underdeveloped. I wanted to know more about their backgrounds and why they were in the situation they were. However, if all the characters had been well-developed it would have been a much longer book.

At the centre of this novel was the relationship between the two main characters, which to me felt fairly stereotypical—troubled girl meets geeky but nice guy who eventually wins her over despite her own best efforts to sabotage it.

The book is called The House, yet this aspect was largely ignored, which meant I found it difficult to form a mental picture of the place. In fact, I struggled to connect with anything in the book. The first quarter was promising, but it soon became a study on relationships and abuse in a slightly unusual house. The writing is functional, but—as far as I was concerned—it elicited no emotional response to the characters or the situation.

If, like me, you enjoy reading psychological thrillers or murder mysteries, you will most likely be very disappointed. I found the blurb and all the testimonials very misleading—especially the ones comparing Lelic to Stephen King—and, had the true nature of the book been mentioned, I would have given it a miss.

If it interests you then please read the book and make your own judgment. As I have said, the book is fine, but just doesn’t quite live up to its alluded expectations.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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