Tuesday 18 June 2013


Book review: The Carriage House by Louisa Hall

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 4 July 2013 by Viking, 279 pages.

Description: William Adair, patriarch, doting father of three girls, Men's Tennis Club Champion from 1967-1974 wakes up in his hospital bed and realizes that his family are less extraordinary than he had believed. For more than thirty years, his faith in life was grounded on two indisputable principles: his daughters' exceptional beauty and talents and the historical resonance of a carriage house built by his grandfather. Now, both have begun to collapse.

The three Adair daughters once so brilliant have all returned home; Elizabeth, the divorced but once promising actress, tennis ace Diana, now a University dropout and beautiful, sorrowful 18 year old Isabelle. Having lost their father's pride they struggle to define themselves, each "a planet that had fallen out of its orbit". And the carriage house has decayed beyond recognition and risks being condemned.

To help him recover, William's daughters take on the battle for the carriage house and attempt to recover some of the promise of their former selves. Told through the alternating perspectives of the family, a dramatic fire jolts them out of their self-absorbed misery and each of the Adairs start to overcome their wrong turns and to find the promise of a fresh start.


People once looked up to William Adair and admired his three beautiful, intelligent and talented daughters - Elizabeth, Diane and Isabelle - but a lot has changed since his two eldest daughters left the house.

When William suffers a stroke Elizabeth and Diane return home and for the first time have to deal with their mother's Alzheimer's disease on a day-to-day basis and see the devastating effect it has on their younger sibling, Izzy, and to a lesser extend William. Not only that, but they finally see themselves through the eyes of the people who surrounded them growing up and they have to face the hard realisation that they are no longer the admired Adair girls, filled with all the potential in the world.

Elizabeth once dreamed of becoming a famous actress but is now a divorced mother of two. Diane was a tennis prodigy, but she changed courses to become an architect and she's struggling to finish her studies. Izzy is a teenager living at home but she is having a hard time without a mother in her life and is unable to connect to other people. Joining the estranged family members in the house is Adelia, a neighbour and childhood friend of William who tries to take care of the family in her own way.

Before his stroke, William was passionately opposing the demolition of the carriage house which once belonged to his family and due to a change in property lines now stands on his neighbour's land. But as he returns home from the hospital the fight has left his body, so Adelia decides to take over and rallies the three Adair daughters to help her save the carriage house. She hopes that winning the battle may bring the sparkle back into William's eyes and help the sisters find back some of what they have lost.

What struck me most about The Carriage House is that the characters, without exception, feel inexplicably sorry for themselves. They've certainly had hardships in their lives, but instead of dealing with them like most people do they gave up without much of a fight and even seem to relish in feeling miserable and unaccomplished. This made them appear more like a bunch of spoiled children than well-rounded people the reader should be rooting for.

The novel by Louisa Hall is a decently written debut, but for the longest of time the carriage house seemed liked a trivial focus point for both the story and William's life. Combined with pointless character additions such as caretaker Louisa and the self-pitying from the Adair family members this soon became a tiresome read that I struggled to find interesting enough to finish.

Many thanks to Lovereading for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Would you like to know more about author Louisa Hall? You can find her online at:

Website: Official publisher page

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