The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood
|The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A deeply unnerving look at the relationships between parents and their children|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: February 2020|
|External links: Author's website|
We know that something has gone wrong - badly wrong - when the woman who was alone in the house is taken away by the police, but it's going to be a while before we learn exactly what has happened.
In December 2018 Lisa has taken Joe and she is running away from Joe's father, Mark. Joe might be only four years old but he's very clear about what he wants. He wants Daddy and he's prepared to attack Lisa physically and verbally to get what he wants. Lisa is driving to a house loaned to her by a friend. It's called Rowan Isle House and it's by the lake and whilst we don't know exactly what Lisa was expecting it's fair to say that it wasn't what she found. The house is damp, without running water or electricity and if it wasn't for Isobel, the vicar's daughter, Lisa doesn't know how she'd cope. It's better than going back to Mark though - but try as she might she can't stop his criticisms from running through her mind.
There's a history to Rowan Isle House. We go back to 2002 and meet Soldier. She's an eleven-year-old girl and it will be a long time before we discover her name. Soldier is living in the house with her father: he's called Sarge. Sarge is a war veteran and he holds Soldier a virtual prisoner in the house. Today we might suggest that he was suffering from PTSD: back then he was first thought to be eccentric then became known as 'the local nutjob', 'the freak and his brown-skinned daughter'. No one seemed to be worried about the life Soldier - 'the dirty raghead' - was living.
I read this book with a constant feeling of unease: I was mentally looking over my shoulder the whole time. Nuala Ellwood neatly mirrors the relationship which Lisa has with Mark and Soldier has with Sarge. Both men are controlling in the extreme and you're never quite certain of just how far they will go.
The House on the Lake is a story of grief at the loss of a parent, of the bond between mother and child and of finding out who you really are, which isn't down to parentage. It touched a deep nerve in me, as I suspect it would with anyone who has had a troubled relationship with a parent. I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
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