Lily’s House, in short, tells the story of a woman who takes her daughter down to Cornwall one summer so that she can sort out the estate of her estranged, and recently deceased grandmother, Lily.
Let me just start by saying that Lily is the most glorious, witchy, bitchy woman. She loved her granddaughter fiercely (sometimes too fiercely) and I wish was mine. Or I would if I didn’t adore my own grandmother so completely.
Her expression is so sweet and conspiratorial that I almost miss the spite. I’m always surprised by Lily’s sharp edges . She enjoys being cruel about the neighbors who clearly find her charming, and look forward to seeing her.
This is the Lily I need to remember. Not the woman who let me bring other people’s cats home and gave me bacon rind for the seagulls, but the Lily who dropped sharp truth from her lips, cutting everyone else to pieces.
I’m glad we get to meet her through all the flashbacks, because she really is the most magnificent character.
I think any good book has a story (and characters) of layers, and Lily’s House fits that bill. There are pretty significant revelations the further you read, but I do have one small critique. I felt that at times the author came out and told us what she wanted us to know, rather than letting us figure it out for ourselves. I distinctly remember have “show don’t tell” drummed into my brain at Uni, so she loses tiny points there.
I also kind of hated that Lily and Jen spent so long apart. The love between them was so ferocious, and I just think it’s tragic that they didn’t get to live happily ever after in a crumbling Cornish mansion, cursing the neighbours that step out of line. I suppose that’s what happens when you let IDIOTS get in the way.
The one big frustration throughout Lily’s House was, of course, Daniel (Jen’s husband). We know him predominantly through a series of needy, passive aggressive text messages, and I just can’t. He’s unbearable. I know that was the point though, so a high five to Ms Parkin for dreaming up the biggest literary irritant I’ve come across in a while!
I think I’m going through a phase where I love any story that dallies in the realm of magical realism – I want so badly to believe there’s magic in this world, and these books indulge me.
Randomly, there was something about Lily’s House that reminded me of my days spent reading the Famous Five collection. Not the witchy vibe, or family dysfunction… but maybe the intense nostalgia for summers spent in Cornwall.
I’d recommend Lily’s House for anyone that loved Practical Magic – the book, not the film. It’s nowhere near as lighthearted or romantic as the Kidman/Bullock extravaganza… but it does still have a satisfying (if slightly bittersweet) ending.
Grab your copy of Lily’s House here.
For a quick reminder of my super-empirical rating system, read this.