The Life of Houses (Lisa Gorton, Giramondo)
Reading The Life of Houses sometimes felt more like eavesdropping. Lisa Gorton’s first novel for adults—following a YA novel and two collections of poetry—exposes the innermost thoughts of her characters with an insight that will have readers nodding their heads in recognition. The story follows mother and daughter Anne and Kit over a single week. While Anne orchestrates the end of a marriage and the beginning of a new relationship, Kit travels to the childhood town that her mother never visits. This book has big ambitions, although it’s quite short; Gorton explores one family’s story over four generations by following two people’s thoughts and actions over a week. The relationships between the family members are tense and silent, told mostly through internal dialogue. Gorton’s ability to describe the inner worlds of her characters creates moments of breathtaking insight on almost every page. The writing is graceful and accessible, and Gorton’s skill with plot is particularly pleasing for a literary novel, which will satisfy readers who enjoy structure and resolution.
Rebecca Butterworth is a Melbourne-based freelance writer