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A Bird in the House: Stories (Manawaka Sequence)

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,422 ratings  ·  49 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 January 1st 1900)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
A solid collection. The stories are told from the same character's perspective all the way through. I like that the book is not entirely chronological, that ages overlap. It is melancholy, mostly because it is so truthful -- not shy about being sentimental or harsh. Some of the endings bugged me, not what happens, but the turns of phrase at the end, trying to tie everything up in a neat image. It bugged me enough that I docked a star as it made the stories feel a wee bit dated. However, it's a c ...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
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.
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

"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.
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
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.
Lola Estelle
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.
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.
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.
Stephanie Vp
This is the first Margaret Laurence book I have ever read, and I am so glad it did! The writing in these short stories is absolutely beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed following Vanessa throughout her life. Looking forward to reading more stories from Manawaka!
I would recommend this one. It's really good. Kind of a compilation of stories that intertwine, but don't really go in order time-wise, but are organized in a great way. I will read more of this author.
Lynn Bornath
Vanessa was interesting, each of the stories was moving, and the book as a whole was remarkable. Read the full review.
For such a small book, it was packed with character. You feel the same seething ferocity that Vanessa, the young girl who is defiant of her patriarchal grandfather, feels.
For once, I am reading a translation ("Un oiseau dans la maison", borrowed from the library). So far, I am enjoying the book - the tone is refreshing, dynamic, honest.
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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
The Stone Angel The Diviners A Jest of God The Fire-Dwellers This Side Jordan

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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.” 3 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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