Audio Book Review : The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

May 21, 2015 Audio Review, Book review 14 ★★★★½

One night while debating what to use my audible credit on, I asked my twitter friends for an audiobook recommendation and this is the book that loads of them named.  I was cynical, a book about a hoarder?  That doesn’t sound like anything I’d choose to pick up but these guys know their books!  It was a WINNER!

Audio Book Review : The House We Grew Up In by Lisa JewellThe House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 12th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, General
Pages: 400
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Narrator: Susan Bennett

Meet the Bird family. They live in a simple brick house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching just beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together each night. Everybody in town gushes over the two girls, who share their mother’s apple cheeks and wide smiles.

Of the boys, lively, adventurous Rory can stir up trouble, moving through life more easily than little Rhys, his slighter, more sensitive counterpart. Their father is a sweet gangly man, but it’s their mother, Lorelei, a beautiful free spirit with long flowing hair and eyes full of wonder, who spins at the center. Time flies in those early years when the kids are still young.

Lorelei knows that more than anyone, doing her part to freeze time by protecting the precious mementos she collects, filling the house with them day by day. Easter egg foils are her favorite. Craft supplies, too. She insists on hanging every single piece of art ever produced by any of the children, to her husband’s chagrin. Then one Easter weekend, tragedy occurs. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass and the children have become adults, found new relationships, and, in Meg's case, created families of their own.

Lorelei has become the county’s worst hoarder. She has alienated her husband, her children, and has been living as a recluse for six years. It seems as though they’d never been The Bird Family at all, as if loyalty were never on the table. But then something happens that calls them home, back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

Delving deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the gripping story of a family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

My Thoughts on the Narration of The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell:

I thought Susan Bennett had an enjoyable voice to listen to.  Her phrasing and accents kept me interested and I love how animated she was.

 My Thoughts on The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell:

I quite honestly dragged my heels on starting this one.  I bought it because I trusted those that had recommended it to me but every time I thought about the hoarding plot, I felt it was going to be depressing and heavy.  When I eventually copped myself on and got stuck in, I was riveted from the start.

I ended up loving it; it’s very emotional and I got drawn into all the characters lives.  The main character is Lorelei and when I listen to her reflections on her younger life, it feels cozy and happy.  I picture all her children having a happy childhood with their beautiful, hippy mother who treated her children as precious gems.  And in way they did.  It evoked feels of sheer joy and images of sunny days, children eating ice cream, epic Easter egg hunts and the adults lolling around drinking pimms.

Her husband (Colin) is sweet, gentle and considerate but also a bit of a pushover and he just ignores what he doesn’t want to see.  Their four children seem to have charmed lives until tragedy hits one Easter Sunday.  But as we pull back the curtains, we see the problems started long before that day.

This was all in the distant past.  Now the two sisters don’t talk, another brother has no contact whatsoever with his family and Lorelei has died.  Alone, in a home that she has allowed to evolve into a house brimming over with rubbish.  It’s all so sad that it broke my heart.  All the more so as Lorelei is genuinely lovely and I wanted to stop the rot that set in.

The book is full of intricate, complex relationships.  And as it is told from alternating perspectives of the various characters we get the full insight into how this family fell apart.  It is also alternates timelines but there isn’t a single timeline or perspective that I didn’t like.  Lorelei’s emails to her online friend were hugely touching, they reflect just how hard she wanted to change her hoarding ways and how lonely she was to be estranged from her family.

There is a lot of drama in the book but it doesn’t feel over the top.  Still if I listed all the things that happened during the book, you’d think I was just pulling traumas out of the air (death, divorce, dysfunctional relationships, affairs, suicide) but it never felt OTT as I was reading it.  Instead it just felt heart-breakingly real and by the end I just wanted to lie down and weep.  Yes it’s a depressing read but it’s also a beautiful one.  I know for sure I’ll never forget the Bird family.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars


Who should read The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell?

First off don’t be put off by the hoarding storyline; this is first and foremost a book about family relationships.  It deals with a serious mental health issue and leaves you feeling you were hit by a truck but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  Fans of authors such as Patricia Scanlan, Monica McInerney and Diane Chamberlain should also enjoy this one.



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14 Responses to “Audio Book Review : The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell”

    • trish

      I think it would be a great one for the library as it would have mass appeal. And even though it has a depressing theme, it still manages to be an uplifiting book. Mostly because the characters are so intriguing.
      And yes, the Cotswolds is a great setting.

  1. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    This book has been on my TBR but I’ve been a little hesitant because alternate POVs and timelines can either be wonderful or confusing depending on how good the writing is. This sounds like a great read though maybe not for my short attention span during summer. I’ll definitely have to pick it up once school starts back and the temperatures drop below 95F!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…Henrietta Who? – Review

    • trish

      I often get confused by multiple POVS but it never bothered me here in the slightest. All the characters were so believable and so interesting that I just got sucked straight into whosoever pov it was.

    • trish

      There were a lot of bad events in the book! But the centre tragedy was so sad. I loved this one, it’s a great one for delivering all the feels.

    • trish

      I felt I had to say it as I fell into that very trap! And I’m so glad that I listened to the recommendations and didn’t miss out on this one.

  2. Christy

    You know, all those traumas you listed a part of life. We experience them all the time. So when the author does it right, it can be very moving. I’d drag my feet about this book too, but it sounds like I need to step it up.
    Christy recently posted…With Visions of Red by Trisha Wolfe

    • trish

      This family got struck with a particularly high proportion of disasters but it still felt believable as some families do get more than their fair share. I loved this one and am glad I didn’t miss out on it.

  3. Wattle

    Gosh, this sounds a bit soul crushing; but also quite intriguing. Hmmmmm. I also have an audible credit to use up, so I might just have to check this one out too!
    Wattle recently posted…Showcase Sunday #26

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