The Yellow House was another audiobook for me. Despite it winning The Vogel Award last year I first heard of The Yellow House when I saw Emily O'Grady speak at a panel at Newcastle Writers Festival earlier this year. I was intrigued by this book so came home with an autographed copy, which I then didn't actually read. Opening up my copy now I see that my lovely friend ANZLitlovers is blurbed! How fabulous.
Newcastle Writers Festival was way back in April, so when I approached The Yellow House in December I had pretty much forgotten what it was about. The Yellow House has a child narrator, not something that every one likes. I usually do, but I was a bit frustrated by our 10 year old narrator here at times.
Ten year old Cub (Coralie) is a twin. She lives with her twin brother Wally, who sounds as obnoxious as a ten year old boy can be, her older brother Cassie (Cassius) and her parents on a property some way out of town.
Our house sat at the edge of the paddock, down a dirt road off the side of the highway. There were no other houses close by, except for the yellow house over the fence. A weatherboard, almost identical to ours except for the colour: the same rickety verandah that looked out over the hilly paddock and the inky mountains on the other side of the highway, the dirt crawl space that rustled like tinsel if you gave the nesting cockies a fright.
Cub's family are on the outskirts of town in more ways than one. Her maternal grandfather Les committed a series of terrible crimes before she was born, and her family is still paying the price for his actions more than a decade after he died. They are shunned socially, her father and brother find it hard to get work. The twins have never really been able to make any friends at school.
Then Cub's aunt Helena and cousin Tilly come to live in the yellow house next door, her brother Cassie makes a new friend Ian, and things begin to change. Cub's parents have taken great pains to keep her and Wally in the dark about their grandfather's crimes. That bit took quite a bit of suspension of belief for me. I really don't think that you could survive five or six years at school and have not one kid (or teacher) say something about the nationally famous crimes of your grandfather. Or that some kid would find that really the twins were just kids despite the warnings of their parents and befriend them, at least in the school yard.
Cub was not the overly precocious child narrator, indeed she was quite in the dark about most things, she was a pestery questioning kid though. But she couldn't know some things I really wanted to know. Why did her aunt Helena move to the yellow house? It's suggested along the way, actually I think Helena's perspective would have been really interesting.
Most of the action of the story takes place on the family property or at the local public school were the twins attend school. Cub's world is quite small so the story is quite small really. The twins spend most of their time at home, especially over the long summer holiday when a lot of the book is set. Like all country kids they roam about the paddock and the dam, but they have always steered clear of the knackery that was involved in their grandfathers crimes.
While reading I didn't get a good feeling for when the book was set. Perhaps I missed obvious statements, but sometimes it felt like it could have been set anytime from the 1950s onwards. No-one had laptops or internet, but there were cars, microwaves and it became more obviously recent past.
I didn't particularly like the very end of the book. I wanted something else, more perhaps.
I know I'll be gravely disappointed (pun almost intended) but whenever I come across a ghost drop (Cub's favourite lolly) I'm going to have to have one. I'd never heard of them before. Perhaps they're a Queensland thing?
Glad to see you reviewing.
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