“‘Happy fifteenth birthday, genius! Just think this time next year you’ll have a first-year Cambridge First and a bunch of mates who might just keep up with you.
Nick is 15. He isn’t a genius, he’s just starting Cambridge next month because he ‘works hard’. He is uprooting the life he and his dad have in London, away from everything he knows, because he has to live within a 3 mile radius of the College, but can’t live in dorms because of his age. He and his workaholic dad will be just fine though, things will carry on as they have in the last 4 years. With Nick home alone most nights and Michael working so much he barely notices his son. Hopefully Nick will just be able to find some friends to call his own when he starts his new life?
It’s been a few years since I read Alexia Casale’s first book, The Bone Dragon, but it stuck with me as a magical story that needed to be read. That’s why when I was searching for the first YA book of 2018 to read, this one jumped out at me instantly. I knew from previous experience that Casale writes magical, up-putdownable books, that is exactly what I needed, and its exactly what I got.
Unlike her first book, House of Windows has no fantasy elements. Its true life, but that doesn’t make it any less magical. Its a tough book to read because you get the feeling that the progtagonist, Nick, isn’t always being straight with himself, and it switches a lot between focusing on him to the other people in the book, who are mostly male. That is not to say its bad though. I loved that Nick was a troubled soul and really warmed to him early on. I wanted him to see things how they truly were, not how he believed them to be, and at times just wanted to slap/cuddle/shout at him.
The book deals with a lot in its 360 pages. There are issues of mental health prevalent, and the biggest topic covered is an abnormal family dynamic. The main focus of the book that I got was that you don’t choose your family, but you can find additions to it, and that is what Nick does. He and his dad are alone right at the start, with a fleeting mention of a godfather. That godfather becomes more and more part of Nick’s life throughout the book and thats what both he and Nick need, which is beautiful. The other characters who become a major part of Nicks life that I loved were Tim and Professor Gosswin. They are both characters I wanted to spend time getting to know and I loved how much Tim just understood. You do get people in life like that, but they are few and far between.
House of Windows takes place in Cambridge, as mentioned above, over the course of the first year in Nick’s university career. It shows that not everything you learn at university comes from the books and that is very much something I agree with. University for me was a life lesson, a coming of age, and it is that for many people. If I could thrust this book into the arms of every 16 year old just starting college I would, because I honestly think it would build up the idea of applying for university and heading off into the world as a strong, independent young person – no matter how scary that is.
As you can probably tell, I loved this book. I read it in about 3 sittings, with one of those parenting on fleek by shoving Peppa Pig of TV and letting Spike sit on my knee and watch that so I could read in peace. Its an amazing book by an author who isn’t to be missed, so if you haven’t read it yet – please do!
House of Windows was published by Faber and Faber in August 2015. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for this review (sorry it took so long!)
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