Review: A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham

171. A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham
Publication: Thomas Dunne Books (June 22, 2010) originally published 1996, Hardcover, 304pp / ISBN 0312562772
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 birds
Read: August 2010
Source: Publisher
Summary from Amazon:

The asking price for this house includes a stunning renovation of hearts and dreams….Liz and Jonathan Chambers were stuck with two mortgages, mounting debts, and a miserable adolescent daughter. Then realtor Marcus Witherstone came into their lives—and it seemed he would solve all their problems. He knew the perfect tenants from London who would rent their old house: a glamorous PR girl, Ginny, and her almost-famous husband, Piers.

But soon Liz is lost in blissful dreams of Marcus, Jonathan is left to run their business, and neither of them has time to notice that their teenage daughter is developing an unhealthy passion for the tenants, Piers and Ginny. Everyone is tangled up with everyone else, and in the most awkward possible way. As events close in, they all begin to realize that some deceptions are just a bit too close to home.


I was so excited when I was offered this book for review; Madeleine Wickham is one of my favorite authors and I absolutely adore her writing. You may know her better under her pseudonym Sophie Kinsella, where she writes silly but enjoyable books like the Shopaholic series. Her books written under her real name are nothing like the Shopaholic books, so if you aren’t a fan of them, don’t worry. Wickham books are more the sort of thing you might read in a college class for analyzing and writing papers on. More serious, more detailed and layered characters, and lots of ambiguous endings.

A Desirable Residence has a plot like a tangled ball of yarn, so I don’t even want to really get into it except to say that it’s enthralling and very true to life. People have affairs in real life, people delude themselves into thinking something’s okay when it’s not in real life, and people hope for things that never happen in real life. And! Like real life it doesn’t have a definite ending or solution to any of the characters’ problems.

That actually drove me insane for a few days after I finished it, because I wanted STRONG RESOLUTIONS and instead I get people running away from their problems, general inaction, and an overwhelming feeling of “but where’s the rest?” While it’s not a cliffhanger, it definitely feels like this is just one arc of these characters’ lives, and it’s over but the repercussions of their earlier actions will continue onwards even after the book’s done.

After thinking about it more I’ve decided that it’s actually a good way to end a book (especially this book). If I had gotten my strong resolution and giant confrontations and so on it wouldn’t have been true to either the tone of the book or to the characters. The characters I wanted to do the confronting wouldn’t have confronted even a startled mouse, and the book wasn’t about good people vs bad people anyway. It was about real life, and how people make stupid decisions but it’s not necessarily the end of the world if they do, and, furthermore, people stay in unhappy situations all the time and somehow make it through the day. So.

Okay, I just went on a really big thing about the end but the rest of the book is good, too! It’s actually not my favorite Madeleine Wickham book (that honor goes to The Gatecrasher), but I adored the writing and even while the characters were driving me insane with their stupidity and self-delusion I still had a grand time reading about what happened to them. I don’t know if I would recommend reading A Desirable Residence first if you’ve never read a Madeleine Wickham book, but I suppose it depends on what sort of book you like. I tend to like characters to talk things out instead of hiding inside themselves like these ones do, but if you like that sort of thing then maybe it WOULD be good to you to reading A Desirable Residence first– and then The Gatecrasher.

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Other reviews: 1776 Books | Girl Gone Mom

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