Book Review: House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild

Just the cover of Hannah Rothschild’s The Improbability of Love brought me to my knees, even though I haven’t read it in the year that I have owned it. Plus, I had heard great things about the book. So of course, when the author’s new book came out, I became excited. And when Bloomsbury India granted me the review request, I literally squealed!

Thank you for the copy, Bloomsbury India! 🙂

Thing is, disappointment doesn’t warn you before it strikes. That’s probably why some are so hard to digest. And this one, House of Trelawney, is one such.

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Plot:

House of TrelawneyHouse of Trelawney is the story of the Trelawneys, an old, aristocratic family who have fallen on hard times. The family is only just being held together by the daughter-in-law, Jane, who is desperately trying to keep her sanity intact as she manages the crumbling household that includes three cranky teenage children, a husband who is the chairman of a bank and gets the most absurd ideas to invest money in, and her in-laws who are still living with the idea that they are as rich and as aristocratic as before.

But what happens when the past comes tumbling down on them in the form of a letter from one of Jane’s oldest friends, Anastasia? Will Jane and her sister-in-law Blaze be able to take the weight of it? What happens when family descends on the House of Trelawney and tries to behave like they are still part of the old times? Will Blaze and Jane be able to survive it?

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What I Liked About It:

I loved the concept of this book. Set in Britain and talking about a declining British aristocratic family, it gave me a glimpse into how and why many people think. The story was even gripping and interesting in a lot of places. And I did feel for the characters and understand why they felt the way they did.

But unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. I had too many problems with the book to say that these pluses overshadowed the minuses.

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What I Didn’t Like About It:

The two qualities that lacked majorly throughout the book, be it the characters or the plot, were clarity and consistency. While there was a certain mystery to the way the plot was written, you would think that the structure of it would, sooner or later, reveal its major points in ways that would blow your mind. But apparently, the string that held it all together was running on 180p video and kept buffering from time to time, as if trying to recollect what was to happen next.

I loved the fact that it revolved around three women, but they just weren’t shown in the light that they were introduced in. Their past is brought up, but what is it, we don’t know until the very end. And that too, through someone completely removed from the setting and from whom you wouldn’t have wanted to hear about this at all. That leaves you feeling cheated, for some reason, because for the entirety of the book, you’re feeling one thing, and at the end, this character comes up to you and tells you that what you’ve been thinking is poppycock. (Yeah, I’m using the slang, hah.)

The characters are so muddled and unclear in how they want to behave! While you would expect a character to behave a certain way but want them to change for the better, the change comes, but with no rhyme or reason or explanation or warning! How do you explain such a change? Why did the person change? Why did they do what they did? How does it affect their life? How does it affect the lives of the people around them? Nope, nada, zilch.

And then, there’s the grandfather-clock-like vacillation. Some of these characters are so bipolar, it actually makes you angry. I understand the human mind and how decisions take time and how you go back and forth over a lot of things. But no one changes their mind so many times and behaves the way they do like some of the characters in this book do.

The plot! While the underlying message (that of a dysfunctional family further going to shreds) is clear and the plotline seems alright in retrospect, reading the book sometimes feels like you’re floating in space, with no sense of time and direction. Where is the story headed? Why is this happening? Why are there so many loose ends at the end? Wait, is that a shooting star? Oh frick, it’s headed my way!

The book is also snail-paced.  Many times in the book, I wondered when the book was going to be done with. And that’s never a good thing when you’re reading a book. It means the book is just not for you. I wanted to DNF the book but stuck it out, hoping to find a neatly concluded story. But what I found were loose ends and that old grandfather clock ticking away as Blaze blazed through common sense.

Yes, the details pertaining to history, politics, finance, and science are fairly well done, but it’s not enough to salvage the book. What’s more, when there are unnecessarily big words used in dialogue, which you know people in 2008-09 didn’t use, it sort of takes the allure out of the details.

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Final Verdict:

That’s all I have for this book at the moment. Will add more if I recollect anything. But I think the gist of it is that this wasn’t a book that I enjoyed. If you’re looking for a book as this, pick this one only if you have the patience and time to sit through it. And prepare yourself, because these characters will make you want to put your head through a wall!

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Amazon India

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