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A House for Alice: From the Women’s Prize shortlisted author of Ordinary People

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The house for Alice was not the focal point and I was left confused by all the characters and the long descriptions that didn’t always seem relevant . As Evans dances between viewpoints, food, fashion and, above all, music imbue her setting – a London that’s predominantly black and middle-class – with sensual specificity.

The book opens, alongside the Grenfell Tower fire, with another fatal fire on the same evening – Cornelius, living on his own and increasingly suffering from dementia, falls asleep and his lit cigarette causes his death. This disaster is juxtaposed against a more personal one: The elderly patriarch of the Pitt family, Cornelius, dies alone at home after a fire breaks out in his house.Anyway, though, I generally liked this book and think if you’re a fan of Zadie Smith’s works you’ll probably enjoy it since it is extremely character-focused. Meanwhile, her piano-playing teenage daughter is grappling with what it means to be a young woman, “its performance, its humiliation and restriction”. A House for Alice by Diana Evans is a well-written story that revolves around themes of family, tragedy, and how the definition of home can change over time.

A fire in a high-rise residential apartment in West London on the same night left several residents homeless and many dead. That shouldn't be at all off-putting to those who haven't read the earlier novel, the relevant backstory is all contained here so you won't miss anything essential. With her grown children torn about whether they should allow her to go, they feel threatened as the family dynamic might crumble to pieces.Through their victories and defeats, Evans skillfully portrays the disparities that exist in England, where the class system and racism continue to hinder progress. I really loved the opening scene with Conrnelius and his clocks, and even the following pages chronicling the Grenfell tower fire. Makes me think of a Brueghel painting with many individuals going about their business in a London that is at times on fire.

I got about a quarter of the way through this before I realised, to my delight, it was a sequel to Ordinary People! It was an intriguing aspect for sure but considering the disaster itself is not even 10 years old yet, with investigations still very much ongoing and people still very much struggling because of it, I can't help but wonder if it was a bit too early to feature it in a work of fiction. On the other hand the music embedded throughout the novel (this was a novel very much with its own soundtrack) and there was some brilliant observational writing on coupledom or parenthood. She dedicates the book to her own Nigerian mother and “all of us who have found ourselves in a strange land”. I love when I think I can predict what a character will think/do next and they surprise me with a thought or viewpoint that I didn’t expect from them.The three sisters have a close yet strained relationship as they try to manage their own complicated lives as well as deciding how to help their mother, Alice, enter the next phase of her life. In the early hours of June 14, 2017, the world watches as flames leap up the sides of a residential high-rise in West London, consuming Grenfell Tower and many of the lives within it.

If one wants to know about displaced Nigerians, dealing with the racism of their new home, read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. While I did like the writing and the character development, I was somewhat disappointed with the way the story flowed. And Avril and Blake feature as the young in peril in the middle distance - with different outcomes despite their parents’ hopes. Now that Cornelius has died, Alice is wondering if her time to leave England has arrived, despite her children’s disapproval. It starts with two tragedies cause by fire and, as a result, I expected there to be crises and adversity to overcome but instead, I find middle class people dealing with, what seem to me, personal troubles rather than public issues (to use C.Several characters were opaque to the reader – until the end of the book when Evans removed our veils.

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