The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy starts with just a house – ‘The House of Birds’, given this nickname because of the wallpaper Oliver sees through a window as a child, an image which stays with him.
Despite the fact that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I still love a truly beautiful book. The House of Birds cover, perfectly portrays the beautiful description and writing within. The peeling of the wallpaper on the cover is just a small hint of the secrets hidden beneath the surface of this complex and compelling novel.
After his girlfriend Kate inherits her Aunt’s derelict house, Oliver returns to the house in Oxford for the first time since his childhood while Kate is away in order to over-see the renovation. A family feud makes Kate determined to strip and sell the house as quickly as possible, but Oliver is soon drawn into the mystery that surrounds the home and its history. When he finds a hidden diary from the 1920s written by Sophia Louis, the intriguing mystery of it fuels his quest to discover the identity of the author.
Written in a back and forth style; from Oliver in the present day to Sophia’s life in the 1920s. This creates a fast-paced and gripping novel, leaving the reader hooked from the end of one passage to the next to find out the fate and next steps of each character.
Sophia’s diary entries, open up an insight into the lives of the houses’ previous tenants, in the aftermath of the First World War. Her interest in history reflects the way in which the reader and Oliver wish to learn more and more about the family’s past.
McCarthy’s elaborate descriptions paint a truly vivid picture of the dilapidated and discarded home, whilst successfully giving us a window into 1920s life.
As shrouded family secrets are slowly unearthed the reader, alongside Oliver gains an attachment and interest in this strange and enigmatic family home, and the characters who have graced its rooms.