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13 / 30 books. 43% done!

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Much-Hyped The London House Severely Underwhelming

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Caroline Payne is surprised—and thrilled—when a handsome friend from college whom she hasn't seen in years shows up unexpectedly at her workplace. She is shocked—and dismayed—when she discovers why. Mat Hammond, an adjunct history professor who researches genealogical mysteries on the side, has honed in on Caroline's family. He's investigating Caroline's great-aunt, a British woman who he says ran off with a Nazi officer during the war, disgracing her family and betraying her country. A well-known magazine is already showing interest in what could be a shocking, sensational story. Caroline's convinced he has the wrong person. Her great-aunt, her namesake, died of polio as a child. When Mat shows her compelling proof, Caroline doesn't know what to think. If there's any truth to the matter, she knows such a public airing of dirty family laundry would finish off her already cancer-ridden father. She can't let that happen.

Begging Mat for time to launch her own investigation, Caroline flies to her father's ancestral home in London. There, she finds a collection of letters and diaries that are sure to hold the truth, whatever it may be. With Mat by her side, Caroline delves into the past, getting to know her Aunt Caro and her grandmother—Caro's twin, Margaret—in ways she never has before. The more intimately acquainted Caroline becomes with her great-aunt, the more she fears what she'll find out about her. She doesn't want her namesake to be who Mat claims she is, no matter how damning the evidence she's examining with her own eyes. What happened to Caro? Who was she, really? Caroline has to know. Whatever the truth, she must protect her family, even if it costs her a promising future with the irresistible historian/journalist who wields the power to destroy it. 

I've seen nothing but rave reviews for The London House, Katherine Reay's newest novel. Considering all the glowing praise, I couldn't wait to dig into this book that was surely going to blow my socks off. It was quite a disappointment, then, when my socks stayed firmly on my feet throughout! The London House isn't a horrible read. In fact, it's got some elements I always appreciate: an intriguing people-in-the-present-digging-into-the-past premise; charactors who are mostly sympathetic and likable; a clean story, with no graphic language, violence, or sex; and a straightfoward narration that makes the book a fast, easy read. Unfortunately, it also has some issues that drove me batty. For one thing, the story is just...not too exciting. The characters are nice and all, but they're also not very complex or interesting. Even Caro, the center of the tale, doesn't manage to come alive on the page. Part of the problem is that the letters and diary entries through which we get to know her are not just dull but also distancing. Further, although there are two couples falling in love in the novel, there are no sparks between any of them. Where's the love? To complicate matters even further, there's not much action in the book, so it's not exactly a page-turner. It's also fairly obvious from the start how Caro's story is going to end. I kept waiting for some surprise twists to up the suspense and tension; it never happened. As a result of these annoyances, I found The London House severely underwhelming. I definitely wanted something more gripping, more intimate, more exciting, and more interesting. As is? Meh.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other ho-hum World War II novels, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. What a bummer when you go in to a book with high expectations and it falls a bit flat. I worry about that when I read a really hyped book.

  2. Oh Dear, I agree we need to love the characters or at least feel like we know them. They sound a bit one dimensional. Too bad.

  3. That is discouraging. I have been excited to read this one as well because of the hype. The story sounds so intriguing, but I like my characters to be a little complex.

  4. Sorry your socks didn't fly off for this! Historicals are touch when there is not a lot of action in them.

  5. Sorry to hear you didn't like this one very much. I think I'll still read it because I usually think differently than other readers, lol.

  6. Oh I'm sorry to hear this was a meh for you. I absolutely loved The Printed Letter Bookshop by this author but have been almost afraid to read anything else by her in case it didn't live up to that one!


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