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A Bird in the House: Stories (Manawaka Sequence)

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,734 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A Bird in the House is a series of eight interconnected short stories narrated by Vanessa MacLeod as she matures from a child at age ten into a young woman at age twenty. Wise for her years, Vanessa reveals much about the adult world in which she lives.

"Vanessa rebels against the dominance of age; she watches [her grandfather] imitate her aunt Edna; and her rage at times i
Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 15th 1993 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1970)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,541)
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May 24, 2013 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like reading short stories even though the form confounds me a bit. I've heard it said that short stories are harder to write than novels, so I often wonder why an author like Alice Munro chooses the format, and as a reader, as much as I love her collections, I feel a bit deflated as each story ends and I am compelled to pause and decide if I want to immediately start the process of meeting and understanding a whole new cast of characters on the next page. With A Bird In The House, Margaret La ...more
Jun 08, 2011 kp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an old favorite, and I picked it up to choose a story to include in my first-year lit class in the fall. Laurence renders beautifully the balance between skepticism and wonder that characterizes one girl's developing insights into the structure of the adult world that restrains and consoles her. Each story is a jewel of introspection, but taken together, they form an episodic novel that is to me one of the most moving accounts in literature of finding your way through family dynamics. Th ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Jade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Laurence's A Bird in the House was honestly one of the best works I've read in a long time. Were it possible to give it 11 stars, I would. The writing style is very smooth, and rather unemotional considering the nature of the stories. The format of interconnected short stories featuring the same protagonist is a genius way of telling childhood stories; they don't always run in chronological order, and something about that makes you feel more connected to Vanessa. Perhaps it's that you f ...more
Theryn Fleming
A Bird in the House is the 4th book in a five-book series that Margaret Laurence wrote about the fictional Manitoba town of Manawaka (based on her hometown of Neepawa). It's not a "series" in the sense that one normally thinks of a series; the books are only loosely connected–each one has a different main character–and so they really stand alone. There's no need to read them in order or together.

This is a book that I think I could re-read over and over again. It's actually not a novel, but eigh
Aug 26, 2014 HeavyReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I almost didn't read this book.

I found it in a free box and took it home for winter reading. Winter turned into spring and I decided I had plenty to read and listed it on BookMooch. No one mooched it, so I ended up reading it.

I really really enjoyed this book. I'm not really sure I can explain why. I'm not really sure I understand why. But I really really enjoyed this book.

The author did a good job of telling the story through the narrator. The narrator is an adult, maybe even an older adult, te
Lola Estelle
Aug 02, 2015 Lola Estelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a beautiful book! It made me nostalgic for a time and place I've never experienced. Simple yet haunting. I'm not normally one for child protagonists, but Vanessa is neither saccharine nor overly sassy/precocious. I want to write like this.
Lucy Amalia Turner
My friend got me started on Margaret Laurence with The Diviners, and except for a few moments when I perceived language choices as not aging well (since the 1970s), I loved it. Manawaka and its people feel incredibly real. A Bird in the House, a short story collection in the mode of Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid (same characters throughout), also set in Manawaka, can be read and enjoyed either with or independently of The Diviners. The language is unfussy and, to my ear, maybe even more powerful ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Deanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My all time favorite Canadian author, Margaret Laurence relives her own childhood memories of her grandfather's brick house and the family inside it. A collection of short stories, each one is based on a her life as a child growing up. They are very Canadian stories - I'm not sure how to explain that any better. Other authors who detail their own growing up years with a few embellishments are: Sinclair Ross, who writes through a woman's narration about the loneliness, the desolation of the prair ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'm a Laurence fan so this review may not be entirely unbiased. Yes, it is a collection of short stories, but presented together to create a novel. This works in some ways but has definite drawbacks, for instance the story line is choppy and it prevents her from developing characters and story more deeply. It was said of Mordecai Richler's "Solomon Gursky Was Here" that there was enough material for a thousand stories in a lesser man's hands. I take that comment as a compliment that Richle ...more
Cynthia Davidson
A Canadian friend of mine, Margaret Joe, suggested I read Margaret Laurence's work, and I am so glad I listened to her advice! The self-awareness of the young narrator in this collection of short stories helped me get in touch with my own 'inner child' in the most pleasant way (and my 'inner elder') since her perspective includes that arc of time passed.

The way she nails the view youngsters have of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and their revealing comments might make you reconsider what
Aug 05, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I studied abroad in England during my Junior Year of college. I have been searching for this book ever since. I remember loving this story collection, and thought it would be easy to get a hold of stateside (being that Canada is closer to the US than it is the UK). How wrong I was.

I had started to think I'd imagined the author's name and the title of the book. (I was, in fact, misspelling it.)

Looking forward to revisiting the characters in this book and the interconnected stories.
Jun 18, 2011 Mrsgaskell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadiana, own, 9-star
This is one of the books in Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka series. It’s a series of short stories, but since the main character remains the same, it is just as satisfying as a novel. In the first story we are introduced to 10-year-old Vanessa MacLeod and at the Brick House, the home of her maternal grandparents, we meet her extended family. The characters seem entirely real: Vanessa, a lonely girl and budding writer; mother Beth who is expecting a second child; father Ewan, a World War I veteran a ...more
Laura Gpie
Jul 07, 2013 Laura Gpie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadiana
This book is home to me.
I read each of the short stories in this book on their own originally, and out of order, over a number of years. And I've read them together as a novella countless times. They stand alone, and they stand as a coherent, interconnected story.
Laurence masterfully captures the voice of Vanessa, her young protagonist, in a way that doesn't condescend to children, but also doesn't grant comprehension beyond their experience. In part, she accomplishes this by telling the story
I liked this book, and it was well written. I enjoyed being present in the time and place of the stories. I didn't feel enlightened from reading it, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. I have read A Jest of God which I thought gave a little more depth. I do plan to read more of Margaret Laurence's books.
Tracy Trofimencoff
I forgot how much I liked Margaret Laurence's writing. It has been far too long so I am happy to rediscover this author. Her short stories are so vivid and full of detail. I think many of us can relate to Vanessa's tales of growing up. She is a very likeable narrator.
Aug 30, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am loving this author. I never knew that Margaret Atwood was a 2.0 version of anything, but every time I read another book by Laurence, I keep seeing the 1.0 she comes from. This is a wonderful thing for a person who can't seem to read enough of either.
I was not expecting to love this, but it has fast become one of my favourites. These stories are exquisite. The writing is so perfectly distilled, there is nothing more and nothing less written then exactly what there should be. And what a perfect form for its subject matter. A series of self-contained short stories, inter-related through their characters and their narration by Vanessa Macleod for whom they are childhood memories, understood and related to us through the lens of her adulthood. T ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a completely random purchase at the Brattle (used book store). I mean, I don't even like short stories! I enjoyed these a lot though, maybe because the same main characters were used throughout, so even though the stories were just vignettes, you still got a sense of, and cared about, the people. Reminiscent of other Canadian writers who seem to have an interesting and nuanced perspective of women's lives (Alice Munro, Carol Shields). I will definitely read more of her writing.
Mar 14, 2016 Tkjtwmr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Laurence is a true Canadian treasure. What a great book--short stories about Manawaka during the depression and early war years. Sad but also funny and endearing.
Jul 31, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Another brilliant Margaret Laurence novel. The novel is told in a series of fragmented, out-of-order short stories about protagonist Vanessa MacLeod's childhood and teenaged years in Manawaka, Manitoba. With themes ranging from the struggles of the depression to the struggles of the artist, the novel portrays the challenges of life in beautifully scripted prose. Each chapter -- or story -- seems to focus on another character who has, in their own unique -- and often brief -- way, influenced the ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Chanté rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy crap. I did not expect to like this book, but I did. It's not terribly exciting, in that the it doesn't have a wild, fantastical plot: it tells the rather ordinary and sad story of a girl growing up in a small town. But the detail of it just blew me away. I really got a sense of being inside the girl's life and head. Her thoughts and her feelings were very clear. I have never come across such a detailed character before. It was truly an amazing experience to read this book. It did exactly w ...more
i loved it....Margaret Laurence has always been one of my favorite authors. It was a book that i had not ever read, and there are still a few others. To revisit such fine writing was refreshing. Here writing is the backbone of Canada. We get so caught up in the Chick-lit, and "fast to rise" authors, that we forget what constitutes a good story, and are to easily strayed by the "flash". Like i commented earlier, this was a refreshing break, and revisit. I plan on being a little harsher on the boo ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Meghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first I've actually read of Margaret Laurence and I really enjoyed it, although found it quite sad! It was great though. The characters were real and believable, and each of the stories was moving. Definitely recommend.
Jan 21, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, read-2009
The most autobiographical of the Manawaka stories. Protagonist is Vanessa MacLeod. Interesting that these are linked stories which became popular several years later. A different pace again from that in A Jest of God, The Fire Dwellers and The Diviners but a number of connections bind this book to the others tightly: the Camerons, Piquette, Simlow's Ladies Wear (Morag worked there), the book The Clans and Tartans of Scotland by Henry Pearl who was the father of the man Skinner lived with while g ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"A Bird in the House is a series of eight interconnected short stories narrated by Vanessa MacLeod as she matures from a child at age ten into a young woman at age twenty. Wise for her years, Vanessa reveals much about the adult world in which she lives." (From Amazon)

brilliant collection of short stories about one family set in the town of Manawaka. I first read this in Junior High School and enjoyed it but in reading in context as a "series" I appreciated it even more.
Jun 01, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't expect to like this book. It surprised and charmed me. Perhaps the viewpoint of a growing child made the narrow focus so common to Canadian lit seem less contrived and burdonsome. Vanessa's life seemed bounded in a way I remember from the years I spent in Indian Head, SK: the heavy weight of house, the circle of the town drawn on the prairie.
Sean O'kane
Jan 17, 2015 Sean O'kane rated it liked it
Laurence's collection of stories from her Kawakawa childhood may be slight and small (in comparison with others I'll be reading this year)but nevertheless is charming in its telling. The humanity of the family members resonates through war and the Depression, life, death and Vanessa's growing up. Worth a read.
Apr 11, 2010 Veronica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mooched, fiction
I've very much enjoyed the other Margaret Laurence books I've read, but I found this volume of short stories a bit blah. It's a pretty standard coming-of-age/becoming a writer story, and to my mind, while ot was an OK read it lacked the emotional depth and spirituality of her other work.
Sep 28, 2011 Booklovinglady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
This is the only book of the Manawaka series that is not a full length novel but consists of eight short stories instead. It doesn't harm the series though, as the short stories make the book every bit as interesting as the other four books of the Manawaka series.
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Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926 in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada. Both of her parents passed away in her childhood, and Laurence was raised by her aunt and maternal grandfather.

Laurence decided in childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began writing stories in elementary school. Her professional writing career began in 1943 with a job at the
More about Margaret Laurence...

Other Books in the Series

Manawaka Sequence (5 books)
  • The Stone Angel
  • A Jest of God
  • The Fire-Dwellers
  • The Diviners

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“My mother sighed, making me feel that I was placing an intolerable burden on her, and yet making me resent having to feel this weight. She looked tired, as she often did these days. Her tiredness bored me, made me want to attack her for it.” 4 likes
“I stepped inside the front hall and kicked off my snow boots. I slammed the door behind me, making the dark ruby and emerald glass shake in the small leaded panes. I slid purposely on the hall rug, causing it to bunch and crinkle on the slippery polished oak of the floor.” 2 likes
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