The Little House by Philippa Gregory

I’m a big fan of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor historical fiction series and despite having had a couple of her more contemporary novels ensconced on my shelves for several years, it took a recent BBC tv adaptation of The Little House to spur me onto making this leap into the unknown.

Ruth and Patrick Cleary have been married for four years and enjoy a cosy, child-free existence at their Bristol flat.  Every Sunday they religiously visit Patrick’s parents at their idyllic rural home outside Bath, a familial duty which Ruth finds rather irksome and stressful – Ruth was raised in Boston, USA and was orphaned at seven so she feels less bound by family obligations.  A conflict of interests is swiftly established as the Clearys, comprised of Patrick, his formidable mother, Elizabeth and ex-military father, have very definite plans as to how Ruth’s future plans will pan out – a move to the “little house” beside their home, a baby and the relinquishing of Ruth’s promising career in the media.

What unfolds is a chilling, psychological thriller where Ruth is pushed to the limits of her sanity but does she fall or does Elizabeth “push” her?  The tension is palpable and Philippa Gregory is masterful at maintaining this atmosphere of unease throughout the narrative.  All the characters are realistic and flawed especially the mother-in-law, Elizabeth who nevers strays into stereotype although you certainly wouldn’t want to cross her!

A gripping, complex thriller which has echoes of Ruth Rendell at her best, I think this would make an excellent book group read especially for anyone who has hooked up with a golden boy or girl and had the audacity to break with established family traditions – “Now, where are we going for Christmas dinner this year, darling?”……….

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8 Comments

  1. JoAnn says:

    I had no idea Gregory wrote contemporary fiction, too! The Other Boleyn Girl was such a page-turner, and I like Ruth Rendell, too… maybe I should try this.

  2. admin says:

    I’m not sure about her other contemporary fiction, JoAnn, but this one is a great page turner. I haven’t read any Ruth Rendell in a couple of years but she and PD James were my main book fodder a few years ago before I discovered the wonderful world of online book forums and book blogs!

  3. Jessica says:

    have had this on my TBR list for ever I think. The historical stuff doesn’t appeal but I thought this had a good page turner aspect to it. I missed the tv drama when it was on unfortunately but everyone in my office watched it and said it was good.

  4. admin says:

    I enjoyed the tv adaptation Jessica although it did, at times, veer into pantomime territory e.g. watch out MIL’s behind you! The novel was a lot more complex and subtle.

  5. Elisabeth says:

    That was an interesting meme!! I always am surprised when a a blogger chooses books I have not heard of.

  6. Sazzy says:

    Hmm, I like! I too find it hard to reconcile the bodice and corset ripping writer with a more modern tale, but this sounds great!

  7. admin says:

    You’re more than welcome to my copy Sarah if you want it, twas an old swap and was a freebie with a magazine so it will probably not be going anywhere interesting otherwise!

  8. Sazzy says:

    That would be great :)

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