The Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann (audiobook)

In brief: The story of a seemingly unconnected group of women until the past is revealed – then they have one man (and a lot of money) in common. So how did it all happen?

The good: I enjoyed listening to the back story of Rita (she’s a crafty one).

The not-so-good: Took a bit to understand what was going on and why I was hearing about a number of different people.

Why I chose it: Received an eARC from Pan MacMillan, bought the audiobook.

Year: 2015

Duration: 7 hours 34 minutes (book is 256 pages)

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Picador

Setting: England

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sometimes (actually, quite a bit) I feel really guilty about the number of eARCs I have from Net Galley to read. But recently I hit upon the idea of buying the audiobook to try and cut down my unread galleys and make me feel a little better. While it’s probably not an investment for everyone, I think it’s been good for me as it cuts out the ‘what should I listen to next’ dithering that I do each month at Audible. The Ladies of the House sounded like a bit of a different read, especially after seeing that cover! It did take some getting into the swing of which I think was exacerbated by listening rather than reading.

The story opens with Marie going to the airport, feeling rather guilty about the death of three women in a house. She’s never met them, so why does she feel this way? But it turns out that Marie is in fact linked to these women. As the story unfolds, you find out how this happened with the story alternating between Marie and the ‘ladies of the house’. For the ladies of the house, we find out how they came to be where they are today. Initially, we’re introduced to Rita, who is not only a looker, but rather crafty. Even in her advanced age, she’s still trying to earn some cash on the side through the personal ads (in between husbands). Sal’s story is a bit more straightforward, she was in love with Arthur, the owner of the house and Marie’s father. Annetta’s story was more painful and the images in the present day are truly sad, as she suffers dementia.

It was a little difficult to keep up with who was who, with the exceptions of Rita, Flavia and Marie. Rita is a real cracker, she’s feisty and never afraid to grab what she wants. I always looked forward to learning more about her life. Imogen Church is an excellent narrator and it was easy to follow when Marie and Flavia were the focus of the novel. Marie had a gruff, deeper voice especially when talking to mum Flavia – it had all those teenage frustrations grumbling under the surface. Flavia is Italian and exceptionally devoted to Marie (she calls Marie’s work when she’s half an hour late) – I felt sorry for her as Marie really didn’t treat her mother with respect, especially after the link with the ladies of the house is revealed to her.

The story is interesting, but I did lose track a few times along the way as the majority of the characters are introduced very quickly. I didn’t find Sal or Annetta’s stories particularly grabbing, although I think Rita’s story more than made up for it (what a wonderfully constructed character she was!). The jumping back and forth between characters too was a bit of a problem as I felt the storyline lost its flow. Whether this is a problem in the written book, I’m not sure. The ending was a bit odd too, I thought it might tie up some suspicions but it didn’t – not even a hint. But overall, this is a book that is written well and has enough quirkiness in it to make it stand out.

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