Monday, November 05, 2018


Title: The House Swap
Author: Rebecca Fleet
Publisher: Pamela Dorman books
Pages: 294
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Most things take less effort than you think to keep alive, says a character. But marriage is not one of those things.

The House Swap takes us up close into the marriage of Caroline and Francis, and, by extension, into their lives.
Caroline and Francis swap houses for a short break with an unknown person on a house-swapping website. They have an apartment in the city and are assigned for the stay to a house in the suburbs.

Caroline hopes the stay will give her an opportunity to work on her strained marriage. Just the two of them. Their marriage is in shambles following her unfaithfulness (she had an affair with her colleague, Carl, who was 8 years her junior) and his addiction to prescription medicine (never fully explained). They are both in recovery.

The house they are assigned to is crowded with objects, and with visual and auditory cues that remind her of the time she spent with Carl. They tripwire her into the past, even though she came there to escape those memories. Other than those objects, there are hardly any possessions around the house. It looks unlived in, almost minimalistic.

Before long, Caroline begins to suspect that she is being shadowed and watched. She has a premonitory feeling about the house, and believes that it belongs to someone from her past, someone she is trying to forget, someone who seems to be trying to provoke her and destroy her marriage. Then she meets Amber, a young woman who lives next door, who seems to take an inordinate amount of interest in her. Amber reminds Caroline of herself when she was younger. But there is something suspicious about her.

And all along, Caroline cannot shake off the feeling of dread, of something terrible waiting to happen. Of some way in which a dark secret she has hidden from everyone, something horrible that changed her life, will come out in the open.

The novel is written in dual timelines, in December 2012 while Caroline’s affair is on, and in May 2015, long after the affair is over when Caroline and Francis are trying to rebuild their marriage at the house they have been assigned in the house swap. 

Interspersed with these accounts of Caroline are the first person present tense PoVs of Francis, at both timelines, and the present tense PoV of the stranger who has swapped houses with Caroline, in the present day.

The prologue hints at malice and evil intent. Meaning to be Dirty. Unpleasant. It is written in the first-person point of view of the stranger.

I found the concept of a house swap very intriguing. I don’t think I’d ever be capable of letting a stranger live in my home, while I wasn’t around. Not even if it was truly magazine-worthy, and not the messy, cluttered place it is.

The language is poetic and figurative. I was pleasantly surprised to find anything like it in a thriller.

Caroline tells us that That process of laying my quirks and foibles out for inspection and seeing if they are accepted or not is something you do less as an adult.

She and Francis have veiled, monosyllabic utterances that feel more like crossword clues than conversation.

Caroline describes her husband’s pills which disappear and are restored at an alarming rate as dividing and replenishing like cancerous cells.

The years of a floundering marriage have left Caroline feeling as if Love sits uneasily on me, a worn-out, too-big coat that doesn’t mold itself to me in the way it once did.

She feels like the last clumps of grass and earth grasped at by someone tumbling off a cliff. I know they won’t last. That even as I hold them they’re crumbling into nothing in my hands.

None of the characters really stood out for me, except for Carl. He seems to be more in control of his emotions than any of the others. Nearly all the characters are flawed and deeply complicated, twisted in ways that are hard for us to comprehend.

Francis was the strangest of the lot. He is a therapist, who occasionally counsels couples, and yet he can’t seem to make sense out of his own life.

I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the resolution of the mystery here, which was no more than a 3-star for me. The third star is for the author’s prose.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...