Review: The House on Rosebank Lane, by Millie Gray

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Title: The House on Rosebank Lane

Author: Millie Gray

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: 2019

Pages: 272

My Rating: 1.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Edinburgh, 1953.
Kirsten Mowat, eighteen years old and with a joyful spring in her step, couldn’t be more in love with her sea-faring sweetheart Duncan Armstrong.
But, seven years later – after a hasty wedding, a twist of lies and wrenching loss – Duncan and Kirsten’s relationship has faded to tatters. When those closest to her turn their backs, Kirsten – alone, with a young family to care for – must gather all her spirit and strength if they are to survive.
From much-loved Millie Gray, The House on Rosebank Lane is an Edinburgh story of families entwined, of sorrow and hopefulness . . . and of a young mother’s love for her children and a transforming quest for happiness.

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to my review of The House on Rosebank Lane, by Millie Gray. First of all, I would like to thank Black and White Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. They were so kind, and the packaging was beautiful (I will include a picture in this review).

As a disclaimer, I want to make clear that this book was not sent unsolicited: the publisher contacted me and asked me if I was interested in the story, and I said yes. Therefore everything I say is my truest and most honest opinion. The premise of this book is very gripping. Unfortunately, I think that this book is not as good as it could be, and it fell extremely short for me.

In this review I will talk about plot, characters and writing respectively, and it will contain spoilers. Therefore if you do not want to be spoiled for the story, please do not read further.

Let’s start this review on a positive note. I thought the premise of this story was so interesting: a family saga spanning roughly twenty years with a female protagonist and set in Edinburgh. All of these elements immediately drew me in, and I was very interested to read it. I have to say, the plot is the strongest element in this story. Even though it does feel like the author is a pantser (does not plan her story), overall the story line was okay. However, a couple of plot choices did ruin the experience for me. More often than not characters seemed to meet out of convenience, or were introduced to further the plot itself (see Eddie’s introduction in the story, especially his second encounter with Kirsten). I also thought that some of the subplots the author decided to introduce in the story were unnecessary and again, only served as a plot device. I would have liked to see more genuine showing rather than so much telling.

Which brings me to the characters. This novel completely lacks any type of character building or development. The main character is a naïve and whiny woman who is extremely gullible and is not able to fend for herself (this can be seen in many instances, especially concerning her obliviousness of her husband’s cheating and true character, and her very first dialogue with Eddie on pages 114-5). In the latter example, it is really not believable that a young woman would ramble on about her whole life problems to someone she has never met before and shows up at 1am on her doorstep. Every other character in the story was just as forgettable as Kirsten is. Stella herself I could not place: we are given her back story, and even then I could not understand why she got into prostitution. This happens also with other themes, like psychological manipulation and abuse: they are briefly mentioned but never explored which, in my opinion, defies their purpose of being mentioned altogether in the first place. Jessie is mean and petty, character traits that are not justified by her back story at all, and her initial spur of violence I thought to be overly dramatic. Finally, we are told that Eddie is a good man (“Eddie was such a loving and supporting husband” p.263), but we are never shown. I could go on and on, listing examples.

I think the showing vs. telling was one of the main problems: the whole book read like the summary of a story. Literally. The writing was very poor, the pacing all over the place, the dialogue felt very unnatural, and because we only have telling and not showing whatsoever (we are told who the characters are and how they feel instead of shown), all the characters blend in together and seem to have no personality. Very often, the author contradicts herself by writing sentences like: “It was true that Stella was advancing in years to the stage where it could be alleged that she was not as bright as she used to be. However, she was still as sharp as a pin” (p.112).

The pacing is also a big issue. For example, sometimes during a scene we are given a lot of details on one element and then suddenly a considerable amount of time goes by. Years can pass between a chapter and the next, and sometimes even within the same chapter. Other times a whole chapter is spent describing one single event. I was very confused by the pacing, and because it jumped around so much I was constantly pulled out of the story.

Other than the fact that dialogue had pacing problems too – sometimes during a conversation the author summarises what the characters are saying (indirect dialogue), and then suddenly inserts a whole monologue as well (direct dialogue) – most of the dialogues felt unnatural and quite absurd: after not seeing her mother for years, Stella greets her by saying, “What’s wrong? Where is your old bright and breezy self?” (p.93). No one talks like this. Other times whole sentenced did not make sense (See p.245).57183811_2129902317046815_1308978509946814464_n

And finally, the writing was just a problem all around, to the point that character names are repeated dozens of times on the page (instead of using ‘he’/ ‘she’) and character’s thoughts are italicised only from page 120 onward, which is an inconsistency.

I think the pacing and writing problem could have been avoided with a lot more editing, because it did feel like the novel was barely edited at all. If that had been the case, this book would definitely have gotten a higher rating from me, because I really do believe the story has a lot of potential.

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