House of Sticks Synopsis
Bonnie has given up her life as a musician to become a stay-at-home mum. She tells herself she has no regrets, but sometimes the isolation and the relentless demands of three small children threaten to swamp the love between Bonnie and her partner, Pete.
Then an old mate of Pete’s arrives. Doug is eccentric and intrusive, and his unsettling presence disrupts Bonnie’s world further. Yet as the cracks really start to show in the life Bonnie and Pete have built together, it seems the dangers might also come from within.
House of Sticks is a revealing portrait of contemporary family life, its joys and compromises, and how quickly things can unravel. It’s about trying to stay connected in our disconnected society; a story of identity and community, loyalty and love. (Scribe)
In her debut novel House of Sticks Peggy Frew takes readers on the journey that is suburban life as seen through the eyes of protagonist Bonnie. Through this telescopic lens, Frew hones in on what at first would be considered mundane but in fact are integral moments in Bonnie’s evolution as a stay-at-home mother.
From moments that makes us laugh,
‘And now we’re going to read another book about pigs,’ said the librarian into her headset, her voice booming through the speakers. She leaned forward to pick up the book, and there was the muffled thumping of the mic hitting her chest.
‘What’s with the microphone?’ Mel whispered.
‘God knows.’ Bonnie put her chin in her hand and her fingers over her mouth. Don’t laugh.
The librarian held up the book to show the cover. ‘Can anyone guess what this book is called?’ The speakers crackled, and there was a faint whine of feedback.
‘Why is it so loud?’ whispered Mel.
Bonnie couldn’t answer. She was trying to hold it back, but the laugh was coming over her like something involuntary. Don’t laugh, don’t laugh. But it was like a sneeze, a building urge, tickling up between her ribs and towards her throat.
to the challenges of relationships and parenthood.
She shut her eyes. How unfair, that Pete could afford to be so casual when she was the one picking up the slack. The one trapped, politely listening, while Doug told his bullshit stories and Pete drifted off as if somehow exempt. Or popping up like some horrible ghoul to drag the kids away, spoil their fun, because she knew if she didn’t Doug would just sit around reading stories all morning instead of working. The one tiptoeing, feeling watched and judged. Feeling she had to explain or justify herself, her behaviour, her parenting – in her own house.
In House of Sticks Peggy Frew explores the fragility of the family ideal and the isolation one can feel in a crowded room.
Although the story itself is quite contained, psychological tension builds and sinister undercurrents keep the reader guessing. Are things as dire as they seem or is Bonnie her own worst enemy?
One certainly does not need to have experienced motherhood to gain from reading this story, but a female audience will feel a greater affinity to the lead character and her plight.
I identified with Frew’s keen observation of human behaviour and her prose has a real solidity and strength. I look forward to reading more from Peggy Frew in the future.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 /5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Chick Lit
Author Information: Australian Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition in 2008. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting. (Scribe Publications)
* I received a copy of this novel from Australian Small Publisher of the Year 2011, Scribe Publications for review purposes. My receiving this book for free in no way affected my ability to express my honest opinions about it.