Title: House of Straw
Author: Marc Scott
“When those bright hospital lights blinded her as she first entered this world, she may have been thankful that she had finally been released from the relative security of her mother’s womb. Maybe she had taken for granted the fact that she had been warm, nourished and protected from harm inside that hollow cavity. It is probably true to say that on numerous occasions in the years that followed, Poppy Jarvis may have wished that she had never left that safe haven at all. ”
House of Straw is a thriller novel which depicts the intertwining lives of two half-sisters. Brianna and Poppy lead very different lives, and after the death of her twin brother, Brianna falls into a deep depression. She feels as if she will never be able to recover from the grief, but just when her brother leaves her life, that’s when her half-sister suddenly appears in it. Poppy, on the other hand, has known nothing but neglect and abuse her whole life. Betrayed by the care system, she never manages to find a family who love her, and so turns to drugs in order to conceal that pain. But as she grows up, she realises that it won’t hide her real torment forever. So after the two sisters discover each other, how will their connection affect what happens next?
Within the first 20 pages or so, Jamie’s tragic death immediately set the pace for the rest of the novel. From then on, I loved how fast-paced the book was; the narrative flips between Brianna and Poppy, and although they lead different lives, there were striking similarities in their personalities. Whether intentional or not, I liked the way the author connected them in this way – their stubbornness, and the way they refuse to be told what to do by anyone, I liked how determined they both were and their ferocity made them both forces to be reckoned with.
I liked how graphic it was – Scott was not afraid to show the details in his depiction of this story, and I think that helped make everything more gripping and more interesting. I also liked how stark the horrible truth of Poppy’s life was too – though not pleasant to read, it added weight to the help the reader understand what she had already been through. It was especially harrowing to read about her childhood with foster families, and what happened with the Houghton’s was truly horrifying. But then how she reacted to that, and what she did in order to remove herself from those violent situations, was arguable, more troubling.
My only criticism really would be that although I liked the two main characters, I do think it was hard to tell them apart. It somewhat goes against what I said earlier on in the review because I praised their similarities, but as the narratives were told from their perspectives, I would have liked a little more differentiation in their voices, which I think was growing larger towards the end, but in the beginning seemed more grey and blurred.
Overall, House of Straw is a very commendable thriller; it was fast-paced and had a gripping enough plot, with some particularly dark moments. I do think that it could have perhaps been a little shorter, given that I think there was a lot of build up in the first third of the book, however, it did build to a satisfying, if somewhat fantastical, ending, so that made it worth it at least.