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In The Life of Houses Lisa Gorton examines, with an unflinching and honest gaze, the relationship between the physical and emotional spaces of intimacy and how that relationship has the power to shape and direct lives over generations. Fifteen-year-old Kit is sent to stay for a week with her little-known grandparents so that Anna, her mother, can conduct a clandestine affair. Kit’s grandparents and aunt live in the dark and dilapidated old family home known as Sea House. It is a house with too ‘many walls’ and too ‘many rooms full of silence’; those same rooms are ‘everywhere crowded and vacant’. Kit’s grandfather insists she will inherit Sea House, but as the narrative makes clear, the spaces and objects of her mother’s childhood will have no hold upon her.
The Life of Houses is very much a novel of interiors. Through her spare, poetic prose Gorton sketches a complex picture of family life in all its intensity, anxiety, hurt and love. More intimately, she dramatises the difficult yet necessary moment when a teenage daughter breaks free of her mother to map her own space in the world.