If Walls Could Talk

Janet Clapp
BOOKS CHECKED OUT

If the walls of homes could talk, what tales would they tell about the inhabitants that lived there throughout the years? Here are four novels that tell the stories of four distinct places over the passage of time.

1208-rhv-booklakehouse‘The Lake House’

by Kate Morton

In 1933, Alice Edevane is a sixteen-year-old interested in her latest writing project and a young man working on her family’s Cornwall estate, Loeanneth. “For as long as she could remember, she’d been aware that the house and the gardens of Loeanneth lived and breathed for her in a way they didn’t for her sisters.” That summer, Alice’s baby brother disappears. In 2003, Alice is a well-known mystery writer who buried her past. When London detective Sadie Sparrow is on leave in Cornwall, she discovers the abandoned house. Hearing that a child vanished there, she investigates the cold case. “Sadie had caught herself brooding on the neglected house and the missing child, intrigued by its puzzle.” Switching back and forth in time and among the major characters, the threads of the story are woven together.

1208-rhv-bookparisapartment‘A Paris Apartment’

by Michelle Gable

Sotheby’s furniture expert April Vogt travels to France to assess the estate of an apartment untouched for decades. “Seventy years seemed like nothing once she stepped into the Parisian flat. The stench was closer to one thousand, if smells had age. April inhaled the most negligible of breaths and instantly the taste of dust and perfume filled her eyes, her nose, her mouth…The pieces before her were from a dead woman’s apartment, yes, but more than that, they were from the past.” Facing a crossroads in her marriage, April absorbs herself in her work. “It comforted April to think that when you were gone people might still recognize glimpses of you. Assuming, of course, someone left a space for you to linger.” The woman who occupied the apartment, Marthe de Florian, was a courtesan and lover of a well-known painter during the Belle Epoque. April discovers her journals, which form a parallel story line. A troubled Marthe writes, “The weather is cold and damp. I could not afford to put coal in my fire today, to heat this apartment filled with my things. My hand cramps as I scratch out these words. I fear my fingers might stick to the pen.”

1208-rhv-bookfiercombemanor‘Fiercombe Manor’

by Kate Riordan

When Alice ends up pregnant by a married man in 1933, her mother sends her to a country estate. “Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret amongst the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil here like spilt blood. If you listen closely enough, you can almost hear what’s gone before, particularly on the stillest days. Sometimes the very air seems to hum with anticipation. At other times it’s as though a collective breath has been drawn in and held. It waits, or so it seems to me.” At Fiercombe Manor, Alice slowly learns the story, uncovered through journals and told by a local historian, of Lady Elizabeth Stanton. Mysterious winds and ghostly glimpses haunt Alice: “Things you would never accept in everyday life — strange happenings, presences, and atmospheres, inexplicable lurches of time — are commonplace at Fiercombe.” An alternative narrative reveals Elizabeth’s experiences during her marriage thirty-five years earlier when the manor house, “crumbling and rotting in places, had become a sort of sanctuary to her. By the water there, in the manor’s weed-sown Tudor garden and in the pretty little summerhouse, she could breathe.”

1208-rhv-bookrootpetalthorn‘Root, Petal, Thorn’

by Ella Joy Olsen

From the perspective of five occupants of a Salt Lake City bungalow over time, this novel relates the lives and the constants that endure beyond them, such as a rose bush. In 1913, Mormon Emmeline Lansing has just moved into the newly built house. During the Depression, Bitsy Robinson spends her girlhood there. In 1944, Eris Gianopolous faces her son’s departure to fight in World War II. “Meanwhile, I remained tethered to this place, frozen by events as they swirled about me, stuck on the home front fighting a battle with my fear, which seemed to manifest itself in anger.” After years in a mental asylum, manic depressive Lainey Harper moves in with her young daughter Sylvie in 1968. “The house felt like a favorite shirt, worn, out of style, and beloved. Maybe it was Sylvie, but more than any other place I had lived, it felt like my home.” Today, to help her cope with the grief following her husband’s death, Ivy Baygren investigates her house’s history. “In researching the history of my home, what was I attempting to accomplish? Somehow it did seem therapeutic — a part of my recovery plan. Perhaps in pondering these women and their stories, using the clues I’d found within the walls of my home…I’d found the bones of their past, the only things remaining after the actual person was gone. Any story was possible beyond that. The way these women may have struggled with love and loss, their lives infused into the brick itself, they had been helping me create a guidebook for my own life.”

Inside the walls of the Rutland Free Library you can find the books above and others about houses, including stories, architecture and interior decorating.

Happy reading!

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

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