Thursday, August 03, 2006

Review: Heather Lewis' House Rules

Heather Lewis. House Rules
Published by Serpent's Tail
Reviewed by Theresa Heath

Most reviews of House Rules focus on the darkness and desperation of the novel - and it's easy to see why. The book begins as the equestrian anti-heroine, Lee, is thrown out of boarding school for dealing pot. Rather than return home to a father who sexually abuses her and a complicit mother, she turns instead to the world of horse showing. Faster than you can say frying pan and fire, Lee becomes involved with a dysfunctional and self-destructive group of trainers and riders, finishing most nights zapped on smack whilst being brutally fisted.

Despite the glum premise, however, the novel isn’t relentless horror. A transcendent talent for riding fills Lee, and the narrative, with a buzz and energy never achieved on heroin; she is resilient, and the only character to exhibit the slightest bit of self awareness. Crucially, Lee refuses the last hit of the novel and makes partially believable plans to extricate herself from the situation, suggesting the possibility for her eventual salvation. The language is stripped down, bare, but also poignant, astute and often insightful as the narrator - and, you suspect, Lewis - struggle to describe the indescribable. A difficult but necessary journey.

Theresa Heath specialised in queer literature at university. She now runs the gay/lesbian section of a bookshop and writes about vampires.

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