What’s Notes From The House Spirits all about?:
This is a short story from the point of view of the little guardians and protectors of one particular house which sees many people come and go over the years as they continue to look after it in their own small ways.
What did I think?:
I read Notes From The House Spirits a while back I think, before embarking on this short stories challenge, but I couldn’t remember much about it except that I very much enjoyed it and it was one of my main reasons for buying this collection as a whole so I was looking forward to re-visiting it. Once again, Lucy Wood does not disappoint with beautiful prose and a story so convincing that you could almost believe these little creatures actually exist! Ever had that feeling that you’re being watched in your own home even though it is empty? It could be the house spirits, interested in what you’re doing and checking that you’re taking care of the house properly.
We see a number of years pass by surprisingly quickly in one particular property where the house spirits have been resident as long as they can remember. In fact, they can’t quite remember how they came into being – was it when the house was built? Are they part of the wood, the bricks, the walls? They can’t quite say but their sole purpose is to look after the house itself and ensure the residents are treating it correctly. They remember times when the house has been empty and at first, they welcome the peace and tranquillity but soon start to miss familiar noises or familiar people.
The spirits, as you may imagine are a teensy bit neurotic and when a new person comes to the house, they literally wring their hands over things they do (or more precisely what they don’t do!) and although they are fairly limited in what they can do with the house, they can do small things like straighten the shower curtain so it doesn’t go mouldy, push leaves back through the letterbox and make books slip off a shelf if they don’t think the shelf has been seated correctly and is in danger of falling. Not much escapes their beady eyes but they are shocked to discover one day when the sofa is moved, a small collection of disgusting butterballs (butter dipped in sugar) that their previous tenant used to give guests when they came over to visit and their guests promptly slipped down the back of the sofa when her back was turned.
We see quite a lot of different people come and go and even a few changes made to the house like a wall being knocked down which our spirits are very upset about! I loved that we saw a particular family which were clearly there for many years, from the start of their relationship to when they have a child to when the child grows up and leaves. This all seems to happen in no time at all for the spirits and although initially they are very suspicious and declare: “We don’t like them,” to each new tenant/family, they soon develop a strange fondness for them and it becomes almost alien when the house is left empty once more then they have to get used to a whole new set of residents.
This is a beautiful little story and once again reveals the vast imagination and talent of the author, Lucy Wood. It’s a story that I’ve read a few times now just to savour it and each time I read it I seem to find something new to think about in the narrative. Each time I’ve finished it I’ve felt slightly bereft, wondering what these fictional little house spirits will make of their new residents and I believe that’s a true testament to the amazing writing.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women