The Paper House- Anna Spargo-Ryan

It was all an idea, but it was never going to be reality.

Heather and Dave have an idea- an ideal house where they can be a family and start their new life in the Western side of the peninsula in Melbourne. In their eighth month of the pregnancy, they are informed that their baby girl has died.

Melbourne based writer Anna Spargo-Ryan writes about family, mental illness and relationships in her first novel ever, The Paper House. This book demonstrates how a beautiful idea can turn deadly. It is an explorative novel about the impact of a miscarriage on a woman, her relationships and her surroundings.

Set in Melbourne, it is a story that feels so close to home and intrigued me from the beginning. The unique writing style uses lyrical poetry and is so descriptive and observant from the start that it immediately painted a picture in my mind, connecting me to the characters Heather and Dave emotionally and evoking empathy.

However, at times the writing is too descriptive and jumps from scene to scene in a manner that can be confusing. At times the author describes the surroundings in so much detail that the main point of the chapter is lost or difficult to keep track of. In saying this, the story is told gorgeously and you feel a sense of beautiful melancholy throughout the entire novel.

We are taken on an emotional and emphatic journey about the past and present whereby Heather experiences loss, tragedy, misfortune, mental illness, grief and a surprising connection to her mother. Like her mother, Heather finds peace in art. Only after her loss does she comprehend what her own mother went through in the past.

We are revealed hints in certain chapters which are portrayed by Heather as a little girl, and we get a glimpse of her traumatic childhood due to the loss of her mother. The real truth about this tragedy is however not revealed until the book ends.

It is a heartfelt story about sadness, misfortune and heartbreak that you actually enjoy reading. Were it not for the author’s style of writing, I probably would not have read the book up until the end based on its themes alone. For this reason, I am very impressed and this book was one that left me pensive and considering the tragic after-effects of a miscarriage- something that I honestly had not thought about prior to reading this book.

I had challenged myself by picking a book that I knew I would not fall in love with but wanted to simply explore. The result has left me startled, excited and sad all at the same time. When an author can successfully achieve the objective of provoking thought and emotion within the reader, then no matter what the topic or themes of the book are I consider it a good read and recommend it. The Paper House is a novel that will resonate with you long after the last page.



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