Title: Lily's House
Author: Cassandra Parkin
Publisher: Legend Press
Read: October 2017
Expected publication: 15 October 2016
When Jen goes to her grandmother's house for the last time, she's determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch, but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won't be any reconciliation. Lily's gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily's house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present—and discover how dangerous we become when we're trying to protect the ones we love.
What a lovely treat this book turned out to be! I was constantly torn between the urge to keep reading in order to find out what happens versus a longing to savour the pleasure to make it last longer. Lily’s House reminded me how much I enjoy reading a well-written family drama / mystery as a nice change from my usual fare of gruesome murder mysteries.
For me, Lily’s House had all the essential ingredients for a great read. A strong interesting female protagonist, who may not always be a totally reliable narrator – check. Believable dialogue driving much of the storyline – check. A couple of family skeletons in the closet and an intriguing mystery to keep the reader guessing in the end – check. At least one moment where everything is being turned on its head by a very clever twist which puts the whole storyline into a completely different perspective – check! But Parkin takes it even one step further and adds a pinch of whimsical spice into the mix, stirring it into the storyline where it unfolds its gentle aroma and leaving a pleasurable aftertaste of magic in its wake. It is hard to find a novel where the whimsical and magical elements are providing just the right balance without swinging too much into the realm of the unbelievable. Parkin has pulled this off perfectly, both in her character of Lily as well as Lily’s legacy to her loved ones. As Harris did so masterfully in her novel Chocolat, Parkin manages to convey a slightly magical side to her female characters, especially the old wise women (Lily) and the innocent honesty of the child (Marianne), adding a depth to the story which would otherwise have been missing. I also thought that Jen’s disability enhanced the narrative in ways that only fully became evident to me as the story unfolded, adding complexity to her character and giving a deeper meaning to her decisions and actions, as well as those of her daughter.
With clever plotting, the author managed to convey both the warm and fuzzy memories of Jen’s childhood, as well as the sinister undertones of buried family secrets shadowing the lives of three generations of women. Confined mainly to the setting of Lily’s house and its surroundings, and with a relatively small cast of characters, the story perfectly reflected the relative isolation of Jen’s world, both due to her disability as well as the circumstances revealed later in the novel.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was extremely happy to have come across it by chance on Netgalley, especially as this is not a genre I normally read a lot of. I usually judge an author’s skill by the emotions they are able to evoke in me as reader. Lily’s House brought them all out in force – I laughed, I cried, I got angry and I closed the last page with a satisfied sigh, regretting only that the journey was over. A truly enjoyable read, one of my favourites this year. I will make sure to pick up other novels from this talented author!
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.