“Dream House” is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on a concept I often think about…..home. How does one let go of a childhood home one loved deeply? How does one create a home of one’s own that feels as important and powerful as one’s original home? These themes are very relevant to my personal life right now and I relate so deeply to the main characters in this novel. Seven years ago I left my childhood home and all its memories encased in the cabinets to start a new life with my partner in the city of Plymouth, three years ago I visited my mother for a week in the house I grew up in one last time because she was renting it out to another family in order to live in Bulgaria. The strange feelings I had of happiness and excitement for my mum achieving her dream and even jealousy of another family enjoying our family home was a peculiar experience and now three years on, my mum has had to give up her dream home to come back to the UK for health reasons, the grief I felt was intense for my family never had much, this home abroad was a symbol of hope and rekindled relationships, my sister was planning to get married in the vast garden by the wishing well and I hoped for future travels to further explore Bulgaria.
The attachment one has for a home is an interesting thing and the bereavement one feels can be heart shattering. Even living in Plymouth with my partner doesn’t always feel like my home, it’s his house and financially belongs to him which he hopes will act as an investment property and because of this, I don’t really have a say in the decor and he’s kept it minimal yet elegant so it sells quickly when the day comes to sell it. So being in a building that feels more like his business project than ‘our space’ energetically, is a little unsettling to me.
So this novel really makes you reflect on your own concepts of home and the relationships formed around and within it. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are gorgeous and there is an ever so slight hint of Magical Realism which I adore, at times Catherine describes the house as a living, breathing being and each sentence is lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity. You can almost hear the front door sigh with sadness or the kettle squeal with relief when boiling water for a brew. I also love that the plot takes place in Maine which is a part of America I wish to visit one day, I feel very drawn to the place, it’s a beautiful part of the world.
Published with Yellow Pear Press, this is Catherine Armsden’s first book, and she is an architect by profession. The book deals with family conflict and the connection that some people have with the home they grew up in. It is not a book of action, but a book of reminiscence and emotion. It deals with many subjects–unfulfilled dreams, marriage, mental illness, homosexuality, alcoholism, and suicide.
Gina, the protagonist and her sister are cleaning out their childhood home after the death of their parents. When Gina returns home she can’t seem to settle back into her life as a wife, mother and architect. She begins to fall apart and decides to return to her hometown and take a look at her life in this house. Memories, both good and bad surface to tell Gina’s story.. She begins to reconcile her relationship with her mother and discovers the life she has always wanted. This seems like quite a simple plot however Catherine’s writing weaves magic into each crevice, nook and corner of the home, her description of house hold appliances, the weather and the environment surrounding the home is so moving and poetic, every word breathes life into inanimate objects and structures, she gives them a soul.
This is a perfect winter read, it’s slow, with soothing sentences mixed with childhood memories and slightly dark themes. It’s reflective and relatable. This is a perfect novel to cozy up with in a vast arm chair by the crackling fire, wearing your favourite oversized sweater and tote socks whilst drinking a velvety chamomile tea.
Buy the book here: Dream House: A Novel
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Book review of Rupi Kaur’s The Sun & her Flowers
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Book Haul: Picture books for little Yogis & ESL Learners
Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans