Cover Image: The House in the Orchard

The House in the Orchard

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Member Reviews

The House in the Orchard is a really cool story. I loved the concept of a story within a story, and really appreciated Maude's perspective of growing up. I liked that she was an unreliable narrator. I appreciated reading this gothic story during the fall!
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Thank you to Tin House, HighBridge Audio and NetGalley for the advance copy. 

The House in the Orchard is a story within a story. Right after WWII a widow inherits a house, where she finds a diary written by a girl in the late 19th century.  This is a gothic story about a mysterious past, hidden secrets, complex characters, and a major twist at the end, which unfortunately I was able to guess before it happened. The story takes place in two time periods with two different narrators. Maude the girl from the diary is probably one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator that I have seen a while. Is she telling the truth?  Did the story really happened the way she tells it? After all she was a writer as an adult. There is no closure to the story in the end, thus the four stars instead of five.
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This is my favorite type of gothic novel, a book set in an atmospheric, somewhat spooky house and characters behaving in ways that produce uneasiness and uncertainty.  In 1945, war widow Peggy inherits Orchard House from her late husband's aunt Maude.  She thinks it might be a good place to raise her young son, but Frank, her father-in-law and Maude's brother, tries to dissuade her without telling her why she shouldn't move there.  When she arrive at Orchard House she is spooked by strange smells and a bricked up cellar.  Unable to sleep, she comes across Maude's diary from when she is 13 years old.  Most of the novel is these diary entries.  Maude was sent to live at Orchard House after her parents died and her older brother Frank was in college and could not take care of her.  She is in the care of Miss Greenaway, a mysterious friend of her father's who everyone, including Frank, don't like.  She slowly comes to like Miss Greenaway but has a hard time understanding what is going on around her given that she is 13 and very naive.  This leads to tragedy.  This is slow-moving but engrossing story.
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When a widow with a young child inherits a dilapidated, unkept countryside home in England, she accidentally discovers a hidden diary written by the previous owner of the property, her father-in-law, Frank’s sister Maude.

As she begins reading the diary, which was written by a very young Maude during the late 1800’s, she discovers a girl whose life was changed forever by the death of both her parents. Her father dying quite suddenly and her mother due to illness the deaths coming very close together. The lavish life she and her older brother Frank were accustomed to came crashing down as she became an orphan and her brother who was in college certainly unable not take care of her.

She was then parceled out by “the relatives” to a stranger named Mrs. Greenaway who owned an estate called Orchard House. No knowing or understanding the woman’s connection to her family, she desperately tries to like her and fit in. But she finds the house cold and is not quite sure what to make of her new guardian.

Parts of her feel Mrs. Greenaway is trying to take her under her wing and help her, but there is a side of the woman that makes Maude uncomfortable. Maude is put in a situation that she as a child is not really capable of understanding. She begins to snoop a bit and discovers adult secrets her adolescent mind finds confusing.

But when her older brother Frank suddenly comes to visit and seems to take a liking to Mrs. Greenaway, Maude is terribly jealous she will take her brother away from her and petrified at what might happen to her next. She begins to not trust Mrs. Greenaway and believes she wants her to leave.

When the three decide to travel for a few weeks in the summer, Maude believes they are trying to get rid of her. She concocts a plan to make sure Frank and Mrs. Greenaway don’t go away together with her. Instead, she will have her brother all to herself in hopes of making him love her as much as he used to.

But her plan goes terribly wrong, and the three lives will be changed forever. Maude will never be the same and will regret her actions until the day she dies.

The House in the Orchard is a tragic story about a child, too young to understand the complexities of adult life, too embarrassed to ask and sadly with no one she believes she can trust, just a lost soul.

Thank you #NetGalley #TinHouseBooks #ElizabethBrooks #TheHouseintheOrchard for the advanced copy.
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A dark, twisty, Gothic-style page turner that takes place at an English country home. Told in dual timelines, the story is mostly told through the eyes of Maude and her diaries written when she was a teenager. There are family tensions, deceptions, and miscommunications. This book is all about the characters. There is nothing I love more than a potentially unreliable narrator and an ending that leaves you guessing. I loved this book!

Thank you to Tin House and NetGalley for this ARC.
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Peggy's father-in-law is against her moving into Orchard House, inherited from her late husband's aunt, Maude, but won't give a reason as to why. When Peggy finds a diary written by a teenaged Maude, her questions begin to be answered while new ones arise. 
This has all the eerie spookiness and psychological twists one looks for in a good gothic tale. The atmosphere is set with the old house, Maude's personal belongings still in place, the sealed entrance to the dark, dank, cellar. All the elements are there for a spine tingling, psychological mind twister.. I was gripped from page one and did not put this book down until the end. 
If you are looking for an atmospheric gothic chiller of a tale this one will do the trick. Well written with characters that reach out and grab you, you won't be disappointed. 
Thank you to Tin House publishing and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.
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I enjoyed the dual timeline and the characters; it was intrigued. As is usual with me, I preferred the 19th century storyline to the 1945 storyline. It's just an time setting that I'm more interested in. Largely, this was atmospheric and enjoyable. It wasn't anything extraordinary or unexpected as far as gothic fiction is concerned in my opinion, but instead was just what I was looking for to start off fall.
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In 1945, World War II war widow, Peggy, inherited Orchard House, a rambling property in rural Cambridgeshire. The cellar had been bricked up, the house shrouded in dark mystery. Orchard House had been willed to Peggy's husband by his late Aunt Maude. Peggy's father-in-law, Frank, stated that the dilapidated house was "no place for anyone". Frank refused to stay overnight. "There is something off-kilter...but...Peggy indulges the thought of keeping the house". She searches..."not sure whether she's searching for reasons to stay or reasons to go."

Frank is evasive, refusing to shed light on his dislike for the house. Perhaps answers lie in Maude's teenage diary. Unable to sleep in questionable surroundings, Peggy discovers and then reads the diary cover to cover. "...things that were quite normal last week have become dark and twisted...the trains...Euston stations...since Pa died: They used to squeal with excitement and now they wail." One month later, Maude was an orphan.

"The problem of Maude". What relative would take her? She must reside with a guardian until older brother, Frank qualified as a doctor. "I, Francis Gower, hereby swear that nothing shall ever divide me from my sister, Maude", so claims Frank.

In accordance with Pa's wishes, Maude was to reside with Miss Kitty Greenaway of Orchard House, Sawyer's Fen. Maude has an "unruly clash of fears and griefs and speculations...". Frank stated, "The Feline [Miss Greenaway] is not to be trusted...a vicious predatory beast who lures foolish men to their doom."

Who was Kitty? Maude searched for clues of a manipulative, untrustworthy nature. Kitty was a scholar and classicist. She surrounded Maude with books, star gazing and long walks. "Would you rather be vulgar but interesting, or ladylike but dull?" "[Maude] was bowled over by a wave of sadness...when [she] is reminded of everything lost...but...Cambridgeshire...feels like a place of unparalleled vividness...there are colours pushing through the long grass, yellow daffodils...meadows dotted with white cows...". Despite warming up to Kitty, Maude was plagued with thoughts of Frank's disapproval. He despised Kitty. A terrible tragedy would soon rock their world. How would the siblings fare?

In 1945, Peggy read Maude's thoughts and ramblings. Was the writing an unreliable flight of fancy or Maude's true experiences? Kitty, a published author, gave Greek and Latin lessons to a local farmgirl. In lieu of reading the classics, Maude enjoyed math, history and putting pen to paper...a budding writer?

It was unclear why Peggy made a sudden, short and abrupt appearance, disturbing the flow of the narrative. After completing the diary, Peggy's decisions were in limbo. The book's ending provided no closure. Truth or manipulation, fact or fiction, reader decide!

Thank you Tin House Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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4.5 stars 

The House in the Orchard is a story within a story. We begin in 1945, when Peggy has inherited Orchard House from her deceased husband’s aunt Maude. Peggy visits the property with her father-in-law, Frank, who seems very keen on Peggy selling the property as quickly as possible. There is a weird vibe about the house, and an ominously bricked-up cellar. 

Peggy then finds Maude’s teenage diary from 1876, which helps to shed a little light on the history of the house. The bulk of the novel is from Maude’s diary, following the death of her parents, and being sent to live with her father’s mistress. 

I don’t want to go into too much detail, because the plot unwinds so beautifully it really is a pleasure to read this book. It is all about human relationships and how these can deteriorate without honest communication. Maude is an immensely appealing character. She is sly and cunning, and somewhat ruthless, but she’s had an incredibly hard time of it. She desperately clings to her brother Frank, as he seems to be the only member of her family who has any time for her. 

The House in the Orchard is a relatively light read. It isn’t supernatural horror; this is a primarily human story. I absolutely loved this book. Elizabeth Brooks has created a wonderful character in Maude, and Maude will now take her place alongside Mary-Katherine Blackwood in my favorite teenage protagonists.
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Overall: The House in the Orchard is a perfect read for October, as Brooks has written a gothic tale in the classic style. In 1945, we meet Peggy, recently widowed by the war, her four-year-old son Laurie, and her elderly father-in-law, Frank. They’ve come to Orchard House, a rather decrepit house in a lonely rural area of England, which Peggy has inherited from Frank’s late sister Maude. Peggy imagines a new life for herself and Laurie away from London and Frank’s oppressive influence. Frank opposes the move, partly to keep Peggy and Laurie close, but also because his relationship with Maude was quite difficult. The reader comes to understand how difficult as Peggy, unable to sleep, discovers a diary written by Maude and reads it in its entirety. Most of the book is taken up by this diary, but is Maude a reliable narrator? She’s a young, sheltered teenage girl during the events described, which take place in the 1870s and include the deaths of both of her parents and her move to live with the mysterious Miss Greenaway of Orchard House. Or should Peggy believe Frank’s version? Orchard House may be haunted, but why? And by whom?

Likes: Brooks perfectly captures the essence of the best gothic fiction. The book builds a fantastic amount of tension around the question of truth – is Maude’s version of events true? Frank’s? Or is it something entirely different? The House in the Orchard also concerns itself with the themes of some of my favorite gothic works: what is “correct” behavior for women? Within the stifling boundaries of the Victorian era, any breach of decorum – daring to pursue a higher education, freely expressing emotion, dressing as one liked, not to mention pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship outside of marriage – made a woman “horrifying.” If you enjoyed Jane Eyre, Rebecca, or The Turn of the Screw, or you’re a fan of some of Dickens’ darker works, this book is for you!

Dislikes: nothing! But if you’re looking for something fast-paced, with major supernatural elements, or with blood and gore, this isn’t the book for you.

FYI: death of a parent, marital infidelity, death from illness, sudden violent death.
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Genre: Gothic/Family DynamicsThe House on Orchard
Publisher: Tin House
Pub. Date: Sept. 27, 2022

Mini-Review

This dual narrated novel takes place within two centuries and both are filled with family tension. The story revolves around one girl and one woman who discover the mysteries of an English country house. Thirteen-year-old Maude Gower, an orphan, writes in her diary about losing her parents and having to move in with Miss Kitty Greenaway in 1876. She knows that the family hates this woman but she doesn’t know why. She is heartbroken that she cannot stay with her college-aged older brother Frank. Peggy, Frank’s widowed daughter-in-law, inherits Maude’s home in 1945 and considers relocating there. Frank warns Peggy that the house is haunted and he tries to persuade her to sell it. Most of the story is about Peggy reading Maude’s diary and trying to piece together family secrets. The theme in the novel explores the concept of can we ever truly know what is the truth? There seem to be different truths for our four prognostics regarding the same family history. Is Miss Kitty an evil or misunderstood person? Was someone murdered or not.  I enjoyed the gothic elements in the tale such as why is the cellar locked up. Or when Peggy believes that there is a ghost in the house, both very creepy. However, the tale couldn’t win me over. It kept my interest in the beginning but then it became melodramatic.
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An atmospheric gothic tale centered on an English country manor, where the effects of a tragedy linger 70 years later.

Peggy, a war widow in the 1940s, inherits the house from her husband’s Aunt Maude, much to the dismay of her grandfather-in-law Frank, who warns her against living there. Peggy is hoping for a fresh start in a home of her own with her young son, but she can’t help feeling a sense of unease about the place.

Peggy discovers Maude’s diary from the time she was sent to live in the house at age 13 after the death of her parents. It was then the home of Kitty Greenaway, an independent woman who had a connection to Maude’s father. Maude is conflicted by the mixed messages from her relatives and brother Frank about Miss Greenaway vying with her own experiences, leading to an act that haunts her for the rest of her life.

I enjoyed the diary portion - it was basically a coming of age story with a looming sense of dread - but I was surprised that it took up so much of the book, with only one “interruption” by the later timeline in addition to the beginning and ending. In those brief passages, there are clues in the house’s degenerate atmosphere, as well as some things that call into question the veracity of Maude’s account. It reminded me a bit of the classic The Little Stranger. I think this portion could have been fleshed out a bit more, and while I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, I felt this one was a bit abrupt. Nevertheless, I would still recommend it to readers who like this sort of gothic tale.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.
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There's a lot of early buzz for Elizabeth Brooks' THE HOUSE IN THE ORCHARD--and it's deserved. A richly woven, Gothic narrative which is instantly immersive, this novel showcases Brooks' command of character and place. Highly recommended. 

My thanks to Tin House and to Netgalley for the opportunity and pleasure of an early read.
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Plot: 2/5 Characters: 3/5 Writing: 3/5

A story within a story — in 1941 Peggy inherits the house in the orchard  (in Cambridgeshire) from her husband’s Aunt Maude (her husband died in the war).  Her rather difficult father-in-law (Maude’s brother Frank) hates the place and encourages her to sell.  The bulk of the book is Peggy reading Maude’s diary (beginning in 1876) — a rather horrific tale of how Maude came to own the place.

I wanted to like this book — I love English historical fiction, and there was the potential for a good story. “Victorian era girl brought up to be proper in a home devoid of warmth makes good” is the story I wanted to read but it was not to be.  Instead I disliked her more and more until I thought I couldn’t dislike her any more (I was wrong). By the end,  I had to ask myself what was the point of the book?  What lesson should I have learned?  Who was  I supposed to empathize with?  Was the story believable?  And whose version of events should I believe?

The story moved slowly and there was a lot of description which I kind of skimmed over, but my main objection is the insidious way the story went downhill into darkness.  Luckily (for me) it was not written in a melodramatic way, so I was able to finish the book with my emotional state intact, but I can’t say I gained any wisdom or enjoyment from reading it.
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Could not finish this book. Poor writing (show don't tell!) and the narrative frame did not work for me. I don't want to read a child's diary for so long.
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A dual time set novel between two women. Kept my interest but I was not overly thrilled with the book.  I will not be recommending.
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I enjoyed this book.  I did not want to put it down.  It reads like nonfiction but has the ingenuity of fiction.  Usually, I do not like different timelines...the diary made it more interesting...intriguing...what would happen next?  The diary is a way that the reader can "see" into the minds and thoughts of the characters...I loved that part...I loved reading the diary/journal of the girl...even if she embellished...I really liked this book.  There I go again...Repeating myself when I find a "find"...a book I would reread...a keeper.  This author is talented and gifted in weaving a story that intrigues and entertains at the same time.  This book was sent to me by Netgalley for review, but I would surely want to read this book on my own...Don't miss Brooks' story of a young girl, losing her parents, depending on relatives and a brother...
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