The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power
Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House) - WWII/Contemporary fiction
412 pp., incl. Reader's Guide
Source: Random House for TLC Tours
What's it about:
Callie Brown's uncle Nestor in Patras, Greece has passed away and left her the contents of his house. Callie believes something in that house will explain her mother's oddities -- why her stories don't match up to those of of her sisters, why she has always been seemingly unable to love or even speak a kind word, why she was so unhappy in America, why she left Greece in the first place but returned, years later. At the same time, Callie must try to figure out her own problems. Why did a proposal from her boyfriend of three years cause her to panic? Is it possible for Callie to give her heart to one man?
Where it takes place:
Boston, briefly, and Patras, Greece during WWII and the year 2000
What I liked about The Clover House:
As usual with a book that leaps back and forth between an historical time period and a contemporary story, interconnecting the two, I preferred the historical story. It's set during WWII in Greece and it was yet another fresh perspective on WWII. I liked the fact that Callie's mother's stories didn't necessarily match up with those of her sisters and the statement the author was trying to make about memory being unreliable, slanted and -- at times -- perhaps less important than the emotional weight we sometimes attach to it (from a personal standpoint).
The door to the stairs is just there, across the foyer. But on that earlier visit, I was looking for the site of an innocent childhood game. Instead, I learned that even a shared experience can splinter into conflicting memories.
~p. 348I also really loved the stories from WWII, which are essentially the stories the author's family told her, with a few modifications for dramatic effect.
What I disliked about The Clover House:
Callie and her mother bear some similarities to my relationship with my own mother -- not in quite so horrid a fashion, but in the manner of "traumatized mother who is unable to share her early experience with her child." Callie manages to weasel quite a bit of info from her mother and aunts, although the end result is rather like a puzzle that's still missing handful of pieces. In my case, even as she was dying my mother was still unwilling or unable to talk about the years before my parents married and her only living sibling also won't say a word. I don't like that, but I accepted it a long time ago and I found that I had very little patience with Callie's quest for information. She was lucky to have such a big, happy extended family that was welcoming to her. That would be enough for me.
I also absolutely hated the contemporary setting -- not the place, but the setting in the midst of the annual Carnival, which sounded a bit like a very extended Mardi Gras with some extra immorality tossed in for good measure. It's the kind of setting I do my best to avoid in real life -- raucous, drunken crowds. Blecch. Not my thing, so I didn't particularly like reading about it.
Recommended but not a favorite - Loved the WWII storyline, disliked the main character and I found that the mystery of what happened to Callie's mother unfolded too slowly for my liking. I was tempted to set the book aside about halfway through, but I'm glad I finished it. In the end, I found the story was wrapped up in a satisfying way -- a bit like real life in that not everything is complete, but the heroine redeemed herself (although I never really did like her).
There are some strange sentences at the beginning of the book and my immediate thought was, "Oh, no, I hope I don't feel like breaking out a red pen all the way through this book." I didn't. Although there were times I thought a sentence could have been improved upon, The Clover House is really quite well-written, apart from those few bits at the beginning. Sometimes the author can be very wise and thought-provoking.
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Great review! You had very similar feelings to mine about this book.ReplyDelete
Whenever I read a book that switches from contemporary to historical settings I'm always so eager to get back to the historical bits.
Thanks, Jennifer! Yes, I'm far more interested in a historical setting for the learning experience and immersion in a different time and place. *escapist at heart*Delete
That happens to me too! I am usually drawn more to the historical stories in those mixed historical/contemporary novels. I'm not a fan of loud drunken crowds either, so imagine I might have a similar reaction as you to the setting.ReplyDelete
I am curious about this one, but probably not going to rush out to read it. Thanks for your great review, Nancy!
I wonder if that's common, not having any great desire to read about a place that you'd go out of your way to avoid. I dislike clowns so I tend to avoid books set in or around circuses, for example. :) On the plus side, the historical story was very interesting. WWII was such a many-faceted war -- so many countries, so many different experiences.
Good review, Nanciroo. I don't usually like those flip-flopping narratives, but my book club seems to be on a spree of them. This one doesn't sound too bad! And I kinda love the cover.ReplyDelete
Yeah, not a big fan of the back-and-forth between time periods thing, although it was necessary. Because I only liked the historical part, I think if it as pretty good but not great. Not a favorite, but I don't regret reading it. The cover is lovely, isn't it?
Yep, I like historical fiction parts of dual story lines better too. My mom had a lot of issues from her childhood too, so I'm curious how I would react to that aspect of the story.ReplyDelete
Alyce, the interaction between mother and daughter irritated me a little bit but at the same time it was vaguely familiar. My mother built a wall around her memories and whatever she experienced hardened her, in some ways. She still had a twinkle in her eyes when she was dying, though, so as much as I would have loved to know her story I was never going to badger her about it. It'll be interesting to see how you feel. Annoyed? Familiar?Delete
I've gone back and forth about this one and finally decided against it and your review just solidifies that decision! Thank you.ReplyDelete
It seems to be one of those very polarizing titles - love it, hate it, there's no in-between (or not much that I've seen, anyway). I will tell you I set it down in the middle and could have easily walked away from the book for good but I'm glad I did return, if only for the sake of finishing the WWII story, which didn't fully resolve anything but at least was enough to make the time worthwhile.Delete
I was more interested in the historical story, too, but I think I ended up liking this one more than you did.ReplyDelete
Probably so, Anna. I would have happily walked away from it in the middle, although I'm glad I chose to finish the reading.Delete
I'm glad that you enjoyed the ending - I love it when it feels "real".ReplyDelete
Thanks for being a part of the tour.
Thanks for letting me join in, Heather!Delete
I didn't love this one, but I liked it more than you did. It was a little close to home for me as far as the mother daughter relationship goes.ReplyDelete