What’s it all about?:
‘The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.’ Robert Louis Stevenson
Nick hates it when people call him a genius. Sure, he’s going to Cambridge University aged 15, but he says that’s just because he works hard. And, secretly, he only works hard to get some kind of attention from his workaholic father.
Not that his strategy is working.
When he arrives at Cambridge, he finds the work hard and socialising even harder. Until, that is, he starts to cox for the college rowing crew and all hell breaks loose…
What did I think?:
Alexia Casale first drew me into her magical little world with her first novel The Bone Dragon and her latest YA effort, House of Windows, cemented me completely as a loyal and admiring fan. I think I should mention that it’s a very different novel to The Bone Dragon but this is in no way a slight to the author’s writing. In fact, I was left in awe by her accomplished style and undeniable talent in making me feel so much for a fictional character that is, to be perfectly honest, not a particularly likeable person at the start of the novel.
The story centres around Nick, a young boy who is so intelligent that he is about to embark on university life at Cambridge, no less, at the tender age of fifteen. Unfortunately he does not endear himself to anyone at the beginning – outwardly, he’s a bit of a smart-arse and tends to show off about how intelligent he is which is an annoyance to everyone he meets. But as the story continues, we begin to realise that Nick is a sensitive, sweet soul that just wants a niche to fit in and friends he can call his own.
When we meet Nick’s father, Michael, we understand a lot more about his character. The reasons behind his social awkwardness, his difficulty with people in general and his tendency to shut away a lot of his feelings are laid down in black and white. Michael is a workaholic and often absent in his son’s life, leaving a lot of Nick’s upbringing to family friends and leaving him to navigate the scary world of university almost completely alone without the advice and support that he should be providing. I really connected personally to Nick’s problems with his father and found him both enraging and exasperating. In fact, I referred to him in my mind as his father, genetically speaking and nothing else.
Despite Nick’s issues with his father, he manages to find a place of sorts in the university with the help of characters like Tim, Ange (beautiful, crazy fairy lady) and Professor Goswin who I had a real soft spot for. For the first time, we see Nick managing to open up, admit he is vulnerable and accept help in the unlikeliest of places. In the end, I felt like even though we can’t change what is given to us biologically family-wise, we can make our own family by surrounding ourselves with people who love and care for us and accept the person we are. The quote by Robert Louis Stevenson in the synopsis is a perfect way to describe this book, a coming of age epic that teaches us that there is nothing wrong with being ourselves and asking for help if we need it. Alexia Casale has written a simply stunning novel which slowly builds up to a narrative that affected me more than she will ever know.
“You’re not listening. Like so many people, you think that the important moments in the story of a life are big and loud, where really they’re small and quiet. Someone on the outside would think these moments unworthy of note, but you must recognise the important moments of your own life when they happen. It is very important.”
Come back tomorrow for my interview with the lovely Alexia Casale!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):