Heap House by Edward Carey (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy
Set in an alternate Dickensian London Heap House is a quirky and dark read. Definitely, not everyone’s cup of tea.
I was attracted to this book because it reminded me of Edward Gorey’s characteristic dark pen and ink comics. I struggled at first with the Dickensian language, and managed to muddle up the characters, finding it difficult to get my head around the story. Once I settled though and found my way, I enjoyed it. The creepiness of the story combined with the language made me forget that it's meant to be a middle grade book. In fact I counted a few swear words in there. I do think you'd have to have a real book lover on your hands for the intended audience to get to grips with this story. It is for a patient reader.
Carey has created a strange Gothic world. Heap House and its inhabitants are isolated from the city. The Iremongers find treasure in the rubbish (heap) that keeps growing. The heap acts as an ocean and sweeps people and things out to oblivion when a storm blows in. Clod, the main character, isn’t quite like the rest of his family, he hears objects whisper and recently they’ve not just been saying names. Every Iremonger has a 'birth object': an everyday household object that they must keep with them at all times, or else they will die. Clod has an unusual talent: he can hear birth objects speak names. His own birth object, a universal bath plug, says "James Henry Hayward". Clod is seen as strange for this talent and has therefore grown up to be rather unpopular. One day he meets Lucy Pennant, an orphan who has been brought to Heap House to be a servant. When she arrives, strange things begin to happen and Lucy is blamed for them. She and Clod must find out what is happening in order to clear her name and save her from bloodthirsty Iremongers who hate all outsiders.
If you like Howl’s Moving Castle, Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, then this book could be for you.
Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of picture book The Bear Said Please and the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.