Literary Houses

Description

139 pages
Contains Illustrations
$17.95
ISBN 0-00-216896-0

Publisher

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by Ann Tudor

Ann Tudor was the former Managing Editor of Canadian Book Review Annual and had her own Toronto-based crafts company, Honest Threads.

Review

“Ten old houses, ten mysteries, in pictures and words. Turn the page, and you open a door.” Thus is the reader invited to enter the fiction-made-real houses from ten different novels. The novels (in order) are: Rebecca, Great Expectations, The Picture of Dorian Grey, The House of the Seven Gables, The Great Gatsby, Dracula, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, Howards End, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. (No explanation is given for the seemingly haphazard arrangement, or for the choice of novels.)

In each chapter, a fictional narrator describes the house (with coy allusions to the plot of the novel in question). Surrounding this text are several full-page colour drawings of the house, several smaller drawings, and a plan of the house, all of them created, according to the author, solely from the text of the novels. The “existing sources” (i.e., actual houses on which the novels might have been based) were not visited. Seven artists were responsible for illustrating the ten chapters, one artist to a chapter.

The book is marred, unfortunately, by carelessness. The description of Rebecca’s desk in her morning room includes an inventory of the contents of the open desk: “thick creamy stationary [sic], labelled compartments ... two telephones, diary, menu book.” Immediately above the description is a black-and-white drawing of the desk, complete with labelled compartments, etc., but showing only one telephone. Which are we to believe, the text or the picture? Or was the first Mrs. de Winter’s second telephone disguised as a candlestick?

The really disappointing part of the book is the drawings themselves. Far from being the glory of the book, they are curiously flat and amateurish, with strange colours and slightly askew perspectives. Readers predisposed, as I was, to like the book for its imaginative premise will probably be disappointed, as I was, by the reality.

Citation

Ashe, Rosalind, “Literary Houses,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 28, 2022, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38639.