Tuesday, August 11, 2015
REVIEW: House of Windows by Alexia Casale
House of Windows is about a 15 year old boy, Nick, who is starting his first year of university in Camridge. And Nick will be the first to correct anyone who calls him a genius, he's not. What Nick is is somewhat prickly and sarcastic and I loved him for that. I always find myself relating to people completely unlike myself or with characters who have personality traits that I aspire to, and what Nick is definitely not is a people-pleaser and I loved that about him. What I also loved is getting to know Nick and finding out just what has turned him into the sort of person he is when we meet him.
I have to admit, it was a little difficult to get into this book straight away. That first 50 pages or so are all about the different words and phrases that people who go to Cambridge University call things. They have their own words for everything and it felt like a steep learning curve for both Nick and the reader trying to navigate through this new lingo. And at first, I wasn't sure how necessary it was but it got to a certain point and I started thinking differently. I think having this language for things helps set up the incredible setting that is Cambridge University. I've never been, but after reading House of Windows, I really feel like planning a day-trip and doing some exploring of my own. And I felt like I was part of it too, in learning these new phrases for everything and seeing Cambridge University through the eyes of Nick.
But also, I felt like this book was about Nick finding a place to belong and everything worth joining has it's own language. From families to universities to sports teams (like the rowing crew Nick joins). It felt like it all came together as Nick was learning the language and the people involved and his part in everything. It just made sense.
The thing that I loved so much about this book is that it's very character driven. There isn't a great deal of plot, it covers an academic year and follows Nick on his journey through this first year of university. But it felt like so much more as Nick really progresses throughout the story from this kind of unlikeable, lonely teenage boy into someone who belongs.
The family relationships and friendships in this book really made me cry. But what I loved about them in particular was how real Alexia Casale made them all. I read this book and it felt like she'd brought these characters to life for me. And even if I didn't always like them (looking at you, Nick's dad) I at least always felt like they were believable in the things that they said or did. I loved the realisations that Nick comes to about the meaning of friendship and what it is to be a family.
House of Windows is a really beautiful book. It's beautifully written and populated with some amazing characters. The themes brought up of belonging and of family and letting other people in were really important felt incredibly emotional for me. It felt like the book I needed to read at exactly the right time. This is an amazing book and I really highly recommend it.