The New House – Lettice Cooper

I don’t know about you all out there but I am aware that I put a certain pressure on specific authors and sometimes publishers to deliver a selection of books any of which I can pick up know I am in safe hands and am bound to enjoy. Only what happens when you don’t really enjoy one of the books. Disappointment is the answer to be honest only the fault really is more with me than the book isn’t it? After all I have put it on a pedestal before I have even turned a page and I do wonder if that’s why you are about to get the thoughts that you are on ‘The New House’ by Lettice Cooper.

I will start of by saying that I had instantly loved the premise of ‘The New House’ hence why I picked it up. A single, and really rather stressful, day in the life of a family moving house in the years between wars, the reader popping into all of their minds as the day goes on. It doesn’t sound complex and that’s because it isn’t some books are all about the subtlety and I thought this would be one such book, in many ways it is. We meet each of the Powell’s either residing in Stone Hall or those who have come by for the day to provide help and support painting the full family picture both as it stands currently and giving insight into the past.

Natalie Powell the mother and matriarch of the family is finding the move and widowhood trying ( a description of her waking up and the realization her husband is gone is written beautifully) and downsizing more so especially as the land is being built over, though you wonder if they could really afford to stay there anyway. Rhoda is the long striving daughter who has refused marriage in order to stay with her mother and is becoming increasingly bothered by the situation (which is fair her mother is a nightmare) and concerned she may turn into her Aunt Ellen, a spinster who gave her life to her relatives rather than herself. Delia is the engaged sister who got away and Maurice the brother who married the rather cold Evelyn (I laughed at Maurice’s thoughts on Evelyn’s attitudes to sex). All the little intricacies of the family are brought to the fore as is their lifestyle and the ‘day to day-ness’ of everything.

This should have been just my cup of tea and a delight to read and yet sadly it didn’t really capture me. Don’t get me wrong I read it from cover to cover otherwise I wouldn’t think it fair of me to ‘review’ it but on occasion it felt like an effort, I felt with every chapter that I had read this all before in the last one and intricate became repetitive for me and I started to get a little frustrated with the situation and the characters. Why did I keep on reading? Well, it’s a Persephone and until now not a single one has failed me and because now and again there were moments of delight and some of brilliant humour they just, for me personally, came too few and far between which was a shame and then as a whole it fell a little flat and left me a little cold when I wanted to be charmed. 6/10

Funny in a week I have mentioned two books that left me ambivalent, a feeling that doesn’t sit well with me. I will however, and you might think this is very odd, be recommending this to a few people as I think they would totally be charmed by it and think it a marvellous book. I am wondering if it was a timing thing and in getting very excited (naturally) about Persephone Reading Week (I would possibly have given up on the book had it not been for Claire and Verity’s delightful venture) I picked it up when I wasn’t in the right mood and therefore did it a slight disservice. Maybe I will get it out the library in a year or so and give it another whirl?


Filed under Lettice Cooper, Persephone Books, Review

22 responses to “The New House – Lettice Cooper

  1. It happens. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to read a certain book, especially if expectations are high. I often get scared that I might not like a book of a favourite writer and try not to think about it too much beforehand.

  2. I’ve had this book since Christmas but I haven’t read it yet. I guess I’m waiting for the right time. I’m sure it will come. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t that captivated by it.

  3. It does indeed happen and disappointment is part and parcel of placing anything (or anyone) on a pedestal as they have further to fall. A pity though. If it is any consolation, you have made this book sound appealing to me!

    • I think me placing Persephone on a pedestal was part of it, they are off one now though hahaha. Not that its put me off its just made me be more realistic. I think also in wanting so much to join in with persephone week I read it when I maybe shouldnt have. Glad haven’t put anyone else off, tried my hardest to blame me and not the book though as that was the issue I think.

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  5. I think this happens often with picking up books from a favourite writer or, in this case, publisher. It’s hard reviewing a book when you know that part of your not warming to it might be due to expectations that were too high. I guess the only thing to find out if it really wasn’t the right time is rereading it someday, but I imagine that sometimes that’s not something to look forward to when it did nothing for you the first time.

    • Interestingly, though I know I wouldnt hate to re-read it the more space I have had from the book I think it wasn’t for me all in all and so might not revisit but you never know.

  6. Sorry this didn’t work for you. It’s so frustrating when you’re excited about a book and then realise within a few pages or chapters that it’s not going to live up to those expectations.

  7. I have had the same issue – disappointment in a book not necessarily because it is bad but because you had such high hopes for it. Always sad, but I hope you stick with the Persephone’s, the rest of the reviews I’ve read make it sound like most of the books are incredible. I have yet to read one though – shame on me, I know.

    • One of the many, and possibly never ending, things that I love about blogging is that you can have this happen and then hear from so many other people that you are not alone. Makes you feel so much better.

  8. My first Persephone wasn’t as amazing as I was expecting. In fact I was rather disappointed, it is a good thing I had already bought 11 others or I might not have pursued reading anymore…well, that probably isn’t true. But it did leave me a little ambivalent. I don’t even want to admit that it was Cheerful Weather…I might get beat up for that admission.

    • Hahahaha, no I know a few otehr people who have found that an odd one, I nearly picked it up from the library recently and despite it being tiny I still didn’t. I think I need to try a Whipple.

  9. I really want to read this book, though, and will probably still. See how different or same we would feel. But don’t beat yourself up for not loving this as much as other Persephones. The pleasure in Persephone picking is the element of surprise! What you felt here was exactly how I felt with Mariana (yikes!).

    • Oh Claire, do not on any account let my thoughts put you off as I think it was more my mood than anything else I have to say.

      I am a bit worried now as Mariana is the next one I was going to read – lol!

  10. novelinsights

    Hmm, what a shame it didn’t grab you. I enjoyed my Persephone this week (The Far Cry) but I do think I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind for it. Some of the characters annoyed me!

  11. m

    I think we load far too high expectations onto Persephone. After all, we wouldn’t expect to enjoy every book from any other publisher, would we? I think some Persephones are great (all the Dorothy Whipples! The World That Was Ours, anything by Marghanita Laski); some aren’t right for me but I can see that other readers would love them; there’s a few that I thought were pretty awful, and then I renounce Persephone for oh, at least, a couple of months. I think I was lucky because my first Persephone was The Hopkins Manuscript, then I discovered Whipple and Laski, so I started off with some real gems … if I’d read Mariana first, or House-Bound, (aaargh to both) I think my Persephone relationship might have ended there and then.

    • I completely agree with you M, in fact I mentioned this above, its not the books fault it published by Persephone and therefor I expected so much more from it.

      I think I need to try a Whipple or read another a Laski!

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