Review: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

the smellAlaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else.

Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.

Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.

Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.

Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?

I read The Smell of Other People’s Houses for the SundayYAthon (which I recapped here), and it was a bit of a different choice for me, as usually I prefer novels set in the present day, while this book was set in 1970. However, the title really piqued my interest (it’s probably one of the coolest titles I’ve read in a while, and I also found it rather thought-provoking), and I do find it interesting to test the boundaries of what I read, so I decided to give it a go.

One of the things I both liked and disliked about this book was the split narrative. The story was told from four perspectives, which meant you got four different narratives within the wider plot. All the characters had varying backgrounds, and their tastes and interests differed too, which meant it was entertaining to read about them. I also liked how they got individual storylines, but there was overlap which bound them all together. However, at times I did find the lack of narrative continuity a little frustrating, as it made it more difficult to keep track of the relationships between characters, which character was which, and exactly what was going on at any given time in the plot. I did get used to it eventually, but it annoyed me at first.

Another thing that I liked about the book was the fact that because the storylines were all related, the story finished off neatly. One of the things that can really irritate me in a book is when it ends on a cliffhanger (I know that it’s sometimes the point, and that often in these cases there is a sequel, but I still find it exceptionally frustrating), and The Smell of Other People’s Houses served as a good example of how to finish a book excellently. It didn’t go into excessive details about what lay in store next for the characters, but gave enough information to tie up all the loose ends, which meant it was a relatively open ending that left room for speculation without any questions about key plot points.

The world created was definitely a point of interest for me within this novel. Although I was a little sceptical at first, as I normally read books set closer to the present day, the setting really worked well, and I was very glad I’d given myself the challenge to read something different to normal, as I enjoyed seeing the world of fishing, as well as general life, in 1970s Alaska, which was something I hadn’t read about before.

Overall, The Smell of Other People’s Houses probably isn’t for everyone, as I know a lot of people stick to books set in the present day, but I would recommend this if you want to move away from that. The characters were fun to read about, and although there was no main plot, the series of stories wove together subtly and cleverly, so this book is an interesting one, and worth a read.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses was published on the 5th of April 2016 in the UK by Faber & Faber (first published on the 23rd of February 2016 in the USA by Wendy Lamb Books). You can find out more on Goodreads here, or purchase a copy on Amazon here.

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