Book 69 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
Heap House by Edward Carey
Book 1 of the Iremonger trilogy
Summary (via the book jacket)
Young Clod is an Iremonger. He lives at Heap House, his family's mansion at the center of the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items whose ever-shifting masses have been known to swallow people alive. The Iremongers are an odd old family, each the owner of a Birth Object they must keep with them at all times. Clod is perhaps the oddest of all - his gift and his curse is that he can hear all of the objects of Heap House whispering.
Yes, a storm is brewing over Heap House. The Iremongers are growing restless and the house's many objects are showing strange signs of life. Clod is on the cusp of being "trousered" and married off (unhappily) to his cousin Pinalippy when he meets the plucky orphan servant Lucy Pennant, with whose help he begins to uncover the dark secrets of his family empire.
This book came to my attention after attending a small reading by the author at the Iowa City Book Festival this past October. It was impossible not to be drawn in by his enthusiasm and passion for his work. If there is an audiobook version, I hope he read it himself because he was phenomenal. As a fun little touch, he handed out birth objects to everyone that attended the reading. Mine is an old doorhinge with the name Lara Cuthbertson attached to it. Of the 7-8 readings I attended that weekend, his was the only book I purchased; he kindly signed it and I looked forward to reading it and possibly sharing it with my children as well.
I had two benefits going into this book that the average reader would not. First, it was impossible not to hear his voice as I read and as mentioned above, he was fantastic. Second, the basic outline had been explained in the reading so I knew what was going on. I can't separate myself to know what I would've thought if I hadn't had those benefits, but I do wonder if someone reading it fresh, especially a younger reader, would be able to keep up or if they would get lost. For example, it was explained to me that all of the Iremongers had names with spellings that were slightly off from the norm (Clod instead of Claude, Tummis instead of Thomas, etc.); I doubt I would've noticed that otherwise.
It's hard to define an audience for the book. The content was geared towards a younger audience but the presentation was definitely older (it's not a dealbreaker but I didn't expect to see one character call another a bitch in a book with a recommended audience of 10 and up, and there were some murky sexual/lustful feelings between Clod and Lucy as well). All I can say is I wasn't bored and will definitely continue the trilogy; I may pass it on to my 11 year old (who reads/comprehends well above her age) but will definitely hold off on my 9 year old reading it (slightly due to content but mostly because I don't think he would be able to put together everything that is happening).
I liked the character of Lucy the best. If there is an audiobook, I would still recommend looking at the physical book; the cover art, maps and drawings were a nice addition to the story.
And if you have the opportunity to hear the author, take it. He was delightful.
Quote from the Book
"It all really began, all the terrible business that followed, on the day my Aunt Rosamud's door handle went missing."