‘The House We Grew Up In’ by Lisa Jewell


In my last post, I shared how I had high hopes for November. And I did. I won’t say that my hopes were dashed, but I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to achieve. But that’s ok, it was a good month anyway.

Mainly, I didn’t finish the novel I started working on for NaNoWriMo. However, in typing over 18k words, I learned loads about writing, and I podcasted a lot about what I was learning. I even opened a Trello board to capture my thoughts and organise my episodes.

I will pick up the podcast again mid January. For now, I thought I’d catch up with the number of fiction books I read at the end of this year, and share some of what I learned from them. Let’s start with ‘The House We Grew up In’ by Lisa Jewell.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The House We Grew up In’, both as a reader and as a writer. (By the way, when I refer to myself as a writer, think “someone who writes books”, not someone who earns a living writing, it’s not much more than a hobby for me.)

As a reader, well, I would summarise the book as a story about a family. The book does centre around a tragedy and the mother’s psychological illness but in essence, each character has their own story and, for a non-detective story (which is what I regularly read), I found it to be a page turner.

As a writer, I also found examples of how to make the prose interesting. I was particularly tuned into style, devices, etc, as I was consuming many books and podcasts about how to write fiction at the time of reading the book.

Trust your reader to use their imagination

I love this piece of advice, because as a reader, I need little information to enjoy a scene. Some writers help you to immerse yourself in their world by providing detailed descriptions of the action, characters, settings… but others allow you to create vivid pictures in your brain without giving you too much text.

These couple of sentences are a perfect example of how this can work:

Beth stared at her older sister through wide circles of eyes. She’d never seen another human being make that face before, or the noise that came with it. It was horrible.

Use dialogue to suggest action

I’ve never had a problem writing dialogue (I’ve done lots of script writing for fun, and have worked as an actress, so I’m used to working with dialogue and quite enjoy it), but I had never thought of how, besides giving the reader information about context and character, it can also help to describe action.

‘Talking of which –’ he waved a green bottle at her – ‘this has been sitting in the fridge waiting for a special occasion since (she) was born. What do you think?’

The writer doesn’t need to tell me that the speaker reached out for the bottle and then took out some glasses, etc, etc. A little bit of action description, and the dialogue allows me to imagine what is going on in the scene.

A quote

Finally, I just want to share this quote with you. I found it truly beautiful.

I realised it wasn’t a ghost, it was his SPIRIT and then I realised that a spirit is just another word for a memory, isn’t it? The stronger the memory the stronger the spirit.

Quotes references:
Jewell, Lisa. The House We Grew Up In (p. 107, 113, 362). Random House. Kindle Edition.


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