Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Heap House’

Heap House is Edward Carey’s first foray into young adult fiction. The author of two of the most original adult novels in recent years—Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva—Carey brings his quirky and emotionally resonant style to Book One in the Iremonger trilogy (available from Harper Collins Canada).

For generations, the Iremonger family has been responsible for “the Heaps,” a tremendous sea of trash outside an alternate-universe London with Dickensian echoes. The story has an Upstairs/Downstairs structure that is masterfully managed by Carey’s use of two protagonists: Clod Iremonger, gifted outcast of the Upstairs Iremongers, and Lucy Pennant, feisty orphan of the Downstairs Iremongers. The chapters alternate between protagonists, and the stories slowly intertwine as Clod and Lucy begin to uncover the dark secrets of the Iremonger family.

Each of the protagonists faces significant challenges. Clod has the unusual ability to hear the voices of birth objects (objects assigned to each Iremonger at birth), and each object calls out a different name. This skill leaves him shunned by many family members. Clod is bullied by his wretched cousin Moorcus and has to face a dreaded coming of age ceremony involving an arranged marriage to an unpleasant cousin, Pinnalippy. Lucy is oppressed by the rules imposed on the servants downstairs and struggles to hang on to her identity and her memories in a house where she is stripped of everything but the name “Iremonger”. Accompanying these challenges faced by the two protagonists is the larger problem of the Heaps themselves (which certainly make the reader consider the environmental consequences of our culture of the disposable, as well as the way we accumulate unnecessary stuff in our consumer culture). The Heaps surround the house and provide a menacing backdrop for some intense scenes, while the objects inside the house begin to become threatening in their own, very unexpected, way.

The chapters are accompanied by evocative and gloomy portraits of the occupants of Heap House with their birth objects. The illustrations create the effect for the reader of walking through the grand hall in a Victorian manor house lined with family portraits. As with his adult fiction, Carey creates a marvelous architectural space for this story. The house is a patchwork conglomeration of other buildings or bits of buildings, creating a fantastic, precarious, and near surreal setting for the story.

This is a family saga of such originality that readers will be swept away wondering where the tale will take them, and the story ends on a cliffhanger certain to leave readers anxious for the next installment. This is my number one recommendation for Young Adult reads this Christmas. The second book in the series, Foulsham, is already available in the UK from Hot Key Books. Here in Canada, we have to wait a little longer, but Heap House is available in hardcover now.

Read Full Post »