The Wish House – Celia Rees

Richard still thought about it like that, in standout large letters, capitalized in his mind. Title to a very special time. The End of his childhood. Richard had been fifteen that year, a good enough age to begin being an adult, but maybe the transition from one stage of life to another wasn’t marked by passing years, but by some event.”
During the scorching summer of ’76 Richard comes across the Dalton family. Unlike any family he’s ever come across, they are glamorous, beautiful artists with their free love and a chilled out view of life. Richard is seduced by Clio, the 16 year old daughter, and spends the rest of summer as a fixture in their family home, The Wish House. Beneath the glamour and eccentricity of the household though there is a dark truth, Clio’s rich, artistic father; Jay, is barrelling out of control, throwing mood swings and refusing to leave the house. Can Richard and Clio survive his tantrums and escape unharmed from his wild ways?

The Wish House is a crazy and amazing book, it follows the summer of 1976 so whilst it was way back in the years of magic mushrooms and hippy love, the story between Richard and the Daltons is still very relatable to modern day.
The story flows like you are watching it on a screen; it starts with Richard going to an art gallery at 21, and flashes back to the summer when he was 15. It’s told in a wispy flashback way as well linking the writing in with the story and I could feel the atmosphere of the summer seeping out of the story. I was living the story like a shadow, following Richard through his transition from boyhood to manhood. The summer was a big event to him and I think the way the story was told reflected that really well.
It’s a bit of a strange story in that it reminded me a lot of “The Graduate” and I loved it because of that. It was all about Richards feelings towards Clio and the alienation from the Dalton’s world. He wasn’t used to the glamour and the way of life that they had and it was a world away from his parents’ shabby caravan where he was staying. It was the magical thing about this book, seeing Richard’s naivety ebbing away and him growing as a person… or at least how much he has grown further since that summer.
I found the characters really intriguing and I was captured from their glamour in just the same way Richard was. I don’t want to say too much because little things about them all seep out during the book and I was really impressed with the characterization in the book.
I know this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It takes on the same personality as the characters, with its flow just taking on a relaxed feel and I have seen other reviews on goodreads complain that the book is boring. I never got that though because I was enamoured by the characters and the romance. I was whisked away into the seaside village of 1976 whilst reading this and I really recommend it for others.
The Wish House was published in 2005 by Young Picador. I purchased my copy myself.


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