I met Angie Oakley as our husbands play golf together and we discovered we had quite a bit in common. We both blogged on WordPress and we both enjoyed writing. Angie had published The Porcelain House some time ago but as she says “in an amateurish way.” It wasn’t available to read at this time. Recently, after some editing and fine tuning, she has published it and it is available both as a hard copy or on Amazon Kindle and there is nothing amateurish about this edition.
I purchased a copy on Kindle and then Angie gave me a paperback as a present. I didn’t know anything else about the book when I read it so I made some assumptions from the cover. I assumed with the photos of family on the cover, I presumed this was a memoir of a family member. In the first part of the book there was nothing to dispel this allusion and I spent time trying to pick out who Angie was in the narrative, but, I started to question whether it was indeed fiction by the second half. I could have saved myself much querying had I simply gone to Angie’s site or indeed rung her up. For me though it served to demonstrate that we read fiction and memoir very differently and we do need to know what we are reading before we start. You won’t have this as an issue as you now know it is a novel.
Having said that, I would have enjoyed this novel irregardless of whether it was fact or fiction. The story started in an England at war (1943) with a Mother and two daughters (Pauline and Doreen) waiting for the two sons that were both coming home on leave. The description of the setting let the reader know just how much this was an occasion the women were looking forward to and how much effort had gone into giving them a special homecoming. The disappointment was palpable when one son had his leave cancelled. The set place at the table did not go to waste as the other son brought home an Australian airman and this was the beginnings of a romance between Bill Howard and Doreen.
The characters were well drawn and I’m certain that Doreen and Pauline and their mother were based on actual family members they were so real. The mother was certainly a force to be reckoned with and controlled the two girls lives to their detriment, particularly Doreen’s. The romance started that night went as many war romances did but a series of events, manipulated by Mum, Pauline and Tom (their brother and Bill’s friend) plus wartime led to tragedy for many family members.
The novel is set in both England and rural Australia following the life of one of the next generation Jack. The differences between the two countries are apparent from the different ways of life described. I became very invested in the characters – a single father and his young son – and the novel held me in a tight grip to the end where an unexpected twist led to its conclusion, leaving me wanting to know what happened next. This is the subject of Angie’s next book Treading Water.
I have been a little vague regarding the details of the story because I believe there is nothing worse than not having to read a book because a review has said it all.
Would I recommend this book – Yes I definitely would, particularly if you enjoy family dramas, romance, novels where you become invested in the characters, want to get a feel for the differences between England and Australia and enjoy quests to find where you belong.