Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary

How do you prove you're not an alcoholic? 
Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman's life - middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town. But Hildy isn't one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir. When her two earnest grown-up children stage 'an intervention' and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn't Hildy enjoy a drink now and then?

But as the story progresses, we start to see another side to Hildy Good, and to her life's greatest passion - the lies and self deceptions needed to support her drinking, and the damage she causes to those she loves. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behaviour of one threatens to expose the other, with devastating consequences.

The Good House by Ann Leary is published in the UK by Atlantic Books on 3 October 2013.

This the story of an alcoholic.  Hildy Good is a reasonably successful real estate agent, in her mid 50s, she has a gay ex-husband, two petulant grown-up daughters, a mountain of debt and a problem with alcohol. Hildy herself doesn't have a problem with how much she drinks, she's happy drinking wine alone every evening, she enjoys her naked swims in the cold weather, in the company of her two dogs.  She could probably do without the hangover the next morning, and maybe she does forget some of the night before, but she's a grown up, she can handle it.  Or can she?

Hildy is a character that is difficult to like.  She's in denial and she's not always very nice.  She is, however, a well-drawn, believable character who is incredibly outspoken, often dismissive, but deep-down has a good heart.  Hildy is her own worst enemy, she does herself no favours at all.  Her constant denial of her problems, never learning from her mistakes - it's hard to find any redeeming characteristics at all.  Despite this, as a reader, I felt so sorry for Hildy.  It's clear that despite everything; her business and her friends, she's so lonely, and so unhappy.

The novel really is Hildy's story, but there are some great supporting characters mixed up in this tale too.  Rebecca; recently moved into town, she's rich and pretty and seems to have it all.  Peter; the psychiatrist who finds himself attracted to Hildy, and how her mind works.  And then there is Frank, probably my favourite character.  Frank is the town handy-man, a bit of an eccentric who doesn't really give a damn about what people think.  Frank and Hildy have 'history', which they tend to repeat every now and again!

It is clear that Ann Leary has drawn on her personal experiences when writing The Good House.  She gets into the mind-set of the alcoholic in denial, creating a realistic picture that the reader can totally believe in.

This is a novel that gently unfolds.  Hildy's story is layered with that of her fellow townsfolk.  It's engaging, often funny and very straight forward.  I enjoyed the story, and Leary's writing style.

My thanks to Corinna from Atlantic Books who sent my copy for review.

The Good House is going to be made into a movie, starring Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. I think that is perfect casting.  I'll look forward to seeing the film.

ANN LEARY is the author of the memoir An Innocent, A Broad and the novel Outtakes From a Marriage, and hosts a show on US radio station NPR. She has written fiction and non-fiction for various magazines and literary publications. She is married to the actor Denis Leary, and they share their small farm in Connecticut with their children, four dogs, three horses and an angry cat named Sneakers. Ann Leary has spoken about her own experiences of being an alcoholic and is available for interviews and to write features. Find out more on   Follow her on Twitter @annleary

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