Review: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

the-smell-of-other-peoples-houses

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release date: June 22, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else.

Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.
Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.
Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.
Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve just finished this book and I am now a crying and sobbing mess. If you’re looking for a book that will give you a good punch in the feels, The Smell of Other People’s Houses is the one. This novel was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and my gut was completely right about this one.

A heartfelt and honest depiction of love and loss, this story was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was a beautifully conceptualised and executed story that really captures the atmosphere of the Alaskan setting and the culture of the people who live there. I know nothing about Alaska but I knew without a doubt that the descriptions were authentic and I felt like I was there in 1970s Alaska. The historical feel of the book was there and I enjoyed the slow pacing that I feel is unique to historical fiction. It was really beautifully done and progressed at what I thought was the perfect pace for this kind of story.

What I loved the most about The Smell of Other People’s Houses was the writing. It had a literary feel to it. There was great flow and lyricism and I just drank it all in. I felt everything that the author wanted to convey and the writing definitely pulled me into the story and made me feel like I was part of the experience. It was just so beautifully complex, yet simple at the same time and it brought out all of the emotions in me.

This novel contains four different perspectives and I actually really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I thought it worked very well and I never felt like I was being pulled around in different directions. I really liked being able to see from all four of the perspectives and it definitely made the story more intimate for me. But it wasn’t just the four perspectives that made this book interesting to me. This book actually contains four separate stories that come together at the end. We follow the lives of Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank and I was in awe of how seamlessly their four stories tied together in the end. There were times when I felt like everything was a bit too interconnected but I also loved that about the book and really appreciated all the links between the four narrators and their lives.

The characters in this book were perfection and it was impossible for me not to completely fall in love with every single one of them. I felt so connected to the four protagonists of the book and enjoyed every single one of their journeys. I loved Ruth, the girl who was abandoned by her mother when she was just 5 years old and now lives with her grandmother who is strict and controlling. Ruth was definitely my favourite of the four characters and her strength and resilience really resonated with me. There was also Dora, who was probably my least favourite of the main characters. She was very bitter about her circumstances and while I did understand her family struggles, it was a little bit hard to like her. She did grow on me towards the end and I thought her character growth was amazing. We also followed Alyce, an aspiring ballerina who feels a little bit trapped because of the conflict between her dreams and her duty towards her family. She was probably the character that I felt like I knew the least and wished her character had been explored a little bit more. But I enjoyed her story arc and her character. Hank was another favourite character of mine. We follow him as he runs away from his neglectful mother with his two younger brothers. He acts as the father figure to his brothers but he just wants to be his own person and live his own life. I loved his relationships with his brothers and how he forged relationships with others.

I don’t really have anything negative to say about this book. I did have a little bit of a hard time remember who all the characters were during the first two chapters but each character was so different and unique that it took me very little time to figure it all out. This book is so full of wonderful characters, relationships and love. It was just beautiful to see how each character overcame their hardships and leaned on others for support. It’s become one of my favourite books and I would recommend this to everyone in a heartbeat.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses was published on June 22, 2016 by Faber & Faber and is available at Australian retailers for $16.99.

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16 thoughts on “Review: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

  1. Nick says:

    This is such a wonderful review, Jenna and I agree with every word of it. There was a subtlety to this book that was so powerful. I’m not usually one for multiple POVs, but I liked them all here too. I did it on audio, so it was easier for me to follow. I need to add this to my to-reread pile because it’s definitely re-read worthy.
    I’m really glad you loved it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I’d love to listen to this on audio and see what it’s like. I enjoyed reading it but I feel like the writing is so beautiful and the pacing of it is so nice that having it narrated to me would be amazing! Will definitely be rereading this at some point too!

      Like

  2. Katy Goodwin-Bates says:

    I loved this too; I felt exactly the same way as you in terms of how vividly Alaska was described. I kept getting really immersed in it and then being very confused that I was in my house instead of at fish camp.
    Lovely review too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

    This one sounds so good! I like the cover a lot, and the fact that it takes place in 70’s Alaska. That setting smells (gettitlol) of character growth. And it seems like a lot of that happens too in this book! But oh man, getting punched in the feels. IS IT WORTH IT.

    (I’ll probably pick it up if it ever comes to my library! Although – I might have seen it already? Or is it just an AU print?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      It’s been out in the US since February I think? And omg the US cover is soooo beautiful. It’s 1000000x better than this UK cover. I have the hardcover in my wishlist to buy when I have money to buy books that I’ve already read. You need to GET IT FROM THE LIBRARY ASAP. The punch in the feels is completely worth it! Also it’s super short so you’ll be able to devour it in no time.

      Like

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