Cub, or Coralie is a twin who lives in a broken down property in the country. Her family consist of her Mother, who often takes to her bed, her father who is quiet and detached, and her older brother Cassie, who is a troubled teenager. Cub’s twin Wally she describes as having no connection with her at all. They don’t think the same thoughts, or intuitively respond to each other. At the beginning of the story, as related by Cub, we learn that her Grandfather has committed some hideous murders. She poses the theory that his life has affected them all: “He was the God of all our lives.”
Next door to Cub’s house is where Grandfather lived. Helena and Tilly, an Aunt and cousin of the family come to live there. Cassie is excited at having neighbours, but soon realise that there is not going to be a close connection between the two families. It is at this time that Cub realises there is a secret in the family and she asks her older brother, but he fobs her of with dire threats. Later Cassie brings home a friend, and from the beginning we see that Ian, the friend, is evil. He has an uncanny control over her brother Cassie and divulges the secret about Grandfather’s involvement in murder to Cub.
Now, so many things make sense. The kids at school are told not to play with her, and most people in the town want nothing to do with the family. Sightseers who come to the property looking for signs of violence are chased away by Dad. Mother is sad and powerless, and Dad becomes surlier as Ian’s effect on the family gradually creates disharmony. Cassie is totally dominated by Ian who eventually destroys him.
This is one of the bleakest books I have read. It is also one of the truest stories, where you can see the consequences of a horrendous action and how it affects the family in later generations. A family locked in poverty and who have no sense of respect, cannot find a way to escape the tragic past. The combination of inertia and depression create a cycle from which there is no escape.
The Yellow House was the Winner of the 2018 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|