Aussie Book Review: House For All Seasons by Jenn J. McLeod

house House For All Seasons by Jenn J. McLeod

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Simon & Schuster Australia, March 2013

 Synopsis- Small towns can keep big secrets.

Bequeathed a century-old house, four estranged friends return to their home town, Calingarry Crossing, where each must stay for a season at The Dandelion House to fulfil the wishes of their benefactor, Gypsy.

But coming home to the country stirs shameful memories of the past, including the tragic end-of-school muck up day accident twenty years earlier.

Sara, a breast cancer survivor afraid to fall in love; Poppy, a tough, ambitious journo still craving her father’s approval; Amber, a spoilt socialite addicted to painkillers and cosmetic procedures; and Caitlin, a doctor frustrated by her controlling family.

At The Dandelion House, the women will discover something about themselves and a secret that ties all four to each other and to the house – forever.

 Review- House for All Seasons is an Australian set story of four former friends who are reunited 20 years later when they inherit The Dandelion House in Calingarry Crossing from Gypsy a woman who along with daughter Willow played a pivotal role in their childhoods. All of the women are quite resistant about returning to Calingarry Crossing for a season as requested in Gypsy’s will prior to deciding on the fate of the house. They have secrets to hide, regretful pasts they’ve shied away from and futures they’ve worked hard to achieve.

The story is divided into four parts where each woman lives in the home for a season and it is focused on their internal journey of accepting the past, revaluating their priorities and taking charge of their lives.

Sara is probably the least resistant to returning to Calingarry Crossing, after all the love of her life, Will still resides there. But twenty years have passed and Sara has been married and separated and diagnosed with breast cancer and survived. Will on the other hand had his whole life overturned when he was injured in a car accident that took the life of his wife. Widowed with two children, living at his parent’s home and paralysed from the waist down, Will has a few demons of his own. This was probably my favourite ‘story’ in the novel as I really felt for both of these characters. At first Will’s over the top comedic traits seemed a little ingenuine and intense for me but his defences soon unravelled and he and Sara connected on an emotional level.

Poppy, the hard-working and independent journalist has just won a major award in her industry, so no one is more surprised than her when she accepts her time at the house and leaves her life behind for a month or two. There’s a great relationship dynamic with her older, friend and boss Max who really cares deeply for her. But Poppy is quite emotionally avoidant after growing up with a father who was emotionally neglectful and whom she continually strives to please- only to be forever disappointed. Poppy’s story was quite touching as she finally got in tune with her feelings toward her father and was able to see how the war and the loss of his wife and son impacted on his capacity to show his love.

Amber, the plastic surgeon’s wife and snotty fundraising queen was, admittedly the character I liked the least. However, as her childhood and family secrets were uncovered I could empathise with her and understand why she was the way she was. I think she underwent the most growth in the story as she reconnected with her country roots and reassessed what was truly important in life.

Caitlyn’s story felt a little rushed and she was a character I really enjoyed so I was a little disappointed that her situation wasn’t explored further. She’s a doctor who seems to be living life to her parent’s expectations but is desperate to break free of their reigns. When she meets Alex, a rural vet in Calingarry Crossing she discovers her passion for helping can be achieved in ways other than her current conforming ways. When this story began I thought it was going to be like a typical rural romance and I got quite excited about this prospect. But Alex’s surprise confession was a bit of a shock and I read the next few pages waiting for him to say ‘just kidding!’ Of course, I eventually got over it and really liked the dynamic he played in Caitlyn’s journey- though I felt his presence was a little too much like a plot device for her to reassess her situation and I would’ve liked to see that happen internally rather than be influenced by an outsider.

In fact, each of the women’s change are facilitated by a local whom they associate with during their stay. For Sara it’s the quirky caretaker Eli, for Poppy it’s the mythical Elliot, for Amber it’s young farmhand Christopher and for Caitlin it’s Alex. Though I really enjoyed each of these additional characters it did begin to feel a little repetitive and predictable that someone would come along and challenge each of the women to face their fears.

There’s a lot that happens in this novel and I haven’t even touched on the part that young Willow played in the women facing their fears and the huge secret that explains why these 4 women inherited the house from Gypsy.

At first I was nervous about whether I would enjoy the structure of the story, with each viewpoint taking on a quarter of the story, but I actually really enjoyed it. It worked quite well for me. In fact after I read each part (almost like reading a novella about each character) I thought to myself, I could’ve read a whole book about Sara and Will or Poppy and Max…. etc but I was just as happy to delve into the next character’s head and go on a new journey while in the familiar surrounds of Calingarry Crossing.

House for All Seasons is a lovely novel that sweeps across the four seasons and follows the stories of Sara, Poppy, Amber and Caitlin in their individual journey of acknowledging past mistakes and finding peace with themselves to build the future they always wanted. A captivating, moving and enjoyable debut from Australian author, Jenn J. McLeod.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

House For All Seasons can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

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7 comments

  1. Lovely review Lauren. I felt the same – I could’ve read a whole book about each character as well. I’m interested to see what the next book will do, because there’s stuff left unsaid here. I’d like to see more about Caitlin in particular, I do feel hers was the shortest story and least intense personally.

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    • I was excited to hear there will be another book picking up some of the characters from this story when I read the Q&A with the author over at Book’d Out. I hope there’s more of Caitlin too and that she get’s more story space 🙂

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  2. Hi Ladies. Lauren, thank you for enjoying House for all Seasons. Everything you said (the structure, the individual stories) I’d thought long and hard about during the writing phase. I knew it might be a case of ‘people will either love it or hate it’. Phew! 🙂 I start editing The Simmering Season in May. Very excited.

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