“The choices people make”

  • Book: The House Uptown
  • Location: New Orleans
  • Author: Melissa Ginsburg

Review Author: Yvonne@FictionBooks



Oh My Goodness!

How could a book so relatively short in length, with just a handful of key characters, be packed so full of sadness?

Not the kind of sadness which causes great heart wrenching sobs, but the kind of sorrow that comes from deep within, which has the tears silently but inexorably rolling down your cheeks like an unchecked river.

There are two clearly separated strands to this dual timeline saga, which are cleverly blended and interwoven at several different stages in the storyline, until they connect in a climax which left me breathless, satisfied with the outcome, yet not fully sated, as I am a reader who craves final closure before I turn the last page of the book.

Whilst the whole experience wouldn’t have been as richly complete without the background mystery story, this was for me, a book almost exclusively driven by its characters, with their individual idiosyncrasies and insecurities, their relationships and interactions with each other, their eventual bonding together, and their ultimate, devastating final parting chapter, from which there was no return.

What makes reading so wonderful for me, is that with every book I read, I look forward to being taken on a unique journey, and this story definitely opens the floodgates to those individual experiences. Beautifully structured, wonderfully textured and multi-layered, author Melissa Ginsburg held me in the palm of her hand from beginning to end, with her consummate story building skills and her authoritative and confidently written artistic and lyrical prose.

Compellingly descriptive and observational narrative is the glue which holds the storyline together, offering a real and tangible sense of time and place. I could imagine myself transported to Lane’s house, where family heirlooms and treasures have been consigned to cupboards, as almost every available inch of space has been transformed into a single giant art studio, with the odour of paints and thinners vying for any available oxygen, with the aroma of coffee and pipes of ‘pot’. On down into New Orleans itself, where the ravages of Hurricane Katrina are still only barely concealed in many areas, yet the lovely waterside views compete with some great sounding eating establishments, where those succulent smells and tastes almost leap off the page at me, leaving me licking my lips and consoling my rumbling tummy!

Told with real heart, intuitive empathy, social perception and touching passion, the rich dialogue and interactions between the characters, bring the pages to life. The lies and secrets so well hidden as to almost be forgotten by a generation, yet so astutely visible to the naive eye and intuition of the young. The slowly evolving relationship between grandmother and granddaughter, so long estranged, thrust together, yet with so little time to explore and evolve, before the cruel hand of fate wrests control from their grasp. The detached fragility of the mind, which has the power to leave the body so vulnerable and weak. All these emotions and feelings snatched away and destroyed by the avarice and greed of one individual, who sets off a chain of events they have no power to stop, even as they are seeking atonement for their indiscretions. A complex character cast which on the whole, I found it quite difficult to engage with, despite the fact that they were all beautifully and authentically drawn and defined. maybe it was because of the personal baggage they were all weighed down with, which because open dialogue and synergy between them wasn’t great, they were all shouldering alone and in lonely solitude, as they each searched for that illusive sense of belonging and being loved.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021