Half Broken Things
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Half Broken Things

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  694 ratings  ·  166 reviews
A gripping tale of psychological suspense perfect for the readership of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell, Half Broken Things is a novel that peers into the lives of three dangerously lost people…and the ominous haven they find when they find each other.

Jean is a house sitter at the end of a dreary career. Steph is nine months pregnant and on the run. And Michael is a thief...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Delacorte Press (first published 2003)
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Lauren
Lonely people don’t want to be alone. For them, solitude has none of the glamour that those of us with choice perceive. People like Jean, the protagonist and part-narrator of Half Broken Things, who never, for a combination of reasons, married, or had kids, find themselves watching from the outside in. Older now, without parents living, they feel loneliness chipping away, a prodding reminder of what they missed out on. Mostly the days pass with dull routine, and the way it is depicted in Joss’ n...more
Nancy
Walden Manor, a large country home, is the setting for Half Broken Things. Jean works for an agency and is about at the end of her working life as she becomes a house sitter for the summer while the owners are away.
At first she is alone and one of the first things that happens is she accidentally breaks a valuable old teapot. In fact, most of the items in the house are valuable and of quality but have chips or tears or cracks in them, which also makes the house almost another entity in the sto...more
J.
Faulty Towers

An unlikely exposition eventually grinds into gear and once settled in, the remaining two-thirds of this Murphy's-Law fable are increasingly engrossing.

Morag Joss has read her Rendell, her Highsmith, and also her Poe; what we have here is a tale of grotesques, enlarged & protean creatures that are forced into smaller and smaller corners by their own actions. The alternating senses of pressure and release, panic and calm are the dynamic of the plot. (Unfortunately, the Stephen...more
Scoozer
Half Broken Things is a powerful story about what we tell ourselves as truth. It is an unexpected tale that is beautifully written and compelling. Joss pulled me in with her words, ideas and story. It tells the story of a house sitter who has just been told by her agency that she will no longer be placed because of her age. They are forcing her retirement. This story is a combination of her confession and a third-person account of what happens during her nine months at a country house in Bath, E...more
Robin Ripley
Well written and complex. You see the train wreck coming and yet...
Karyl
Half Broken Things is a novel of just that -- things and people who are at best half-broken. Jean is an older woman with no family, no friends, who house-sits to escape having to live at the local retirement home. Michael is a petty thief, a man tormented by his debts, but seeing no way to come clear of them. Steph, a young girl, barely out of her teens, is knocked around by the father of her baby, and has no future, no money, nothing other than the baby in her belly.

These three people, so broke...more
Debbie
The cover claims that this is a suspense novel but after reading 270 pages of the 300 page book, something tension-wrought btu not very suspenseful finally happens. I didn't like the characters and I didn't like what they did and found the whole book rather disturbing but not in a thought-provoking manner. As another reviewer put it-it was just creepy.
Kathrina
Compulsively readable and character-driven. Others have compared it to The Little Stranger, and I think that's an accurate comparison, as they both develop a spiraling storyline with a plot that gradually develops momentum, ending on oblivion, of course. The book store shelves this in mystery, but I found it at the library in general fiction. It's a hard call, since it contains elements of mystery -- murder, intrigue, small moments of criminal ugliness, but it is also a domestic drama, with thou...more
Susan
This book really creeps up on you. Very suspenseful, as promised. Morag Joss clearly knows her way around a psycho-thriller. Not a genre I normally gravitate to, but the characters in this surprising book are some of the most memorable I've encountered. Just don't read it if you're planning on hiring a house sitter.
Robert Blumenthal
The cover of this novel describes it as a "book of suspense." I saw it a bit differently. It did have a rather slow buildup that picked up its suspense cred about 3/4 of the way through, but it was more a novel about lonely people desperately looking for love and a family of sorts. The lead character and sometimes narrator is a 60-ish woman who never married or had children who basically lives in a fantasy world of her own making. She is a professional house sitter who is presently house sitting...more
theknitsmith
I should have given this more than three stars but I'm trying to be a more discerning reader like the members of my book club (which I've been to twice). But the book was built up a sincerely creepy fashion and involved so much bizarre, yet somewhat sympathetic behavior, that I knew the end was going to be really creepy and I was right. That's all I'm going to say. Overall it was very well-written as well. It just moved at a snail's pace.
Jae
Wow, I have no idea how this book could be described as a "gripping tale of psychological suspense." It wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. This confluence of three dead-end lives lived in quiet desperation makes for interesting reading, but I expected a Silver Dagger Award winner to have a bit more grit to it. This novel wanders through dusky shadows wrapped in gauze.
Bözsi Claussen
Although this book by Morag Joss (very well written by the way) doesn't seem, on the surface, to be a "suspense" novel, the suspense does grow, gradually and surely as the book progresses. I liked the idea of the book immensely, and I don't think the end was, in any way, a let down. An excellent writer, Morag Joss will certainly be an author I will try to read more of.
Anne
Good suspense book. Kind of disturbing how bizarre the characters can act at moment. I kept turning the pages to see what weird thing they would do next. There is a graphic scene in the middle of the book that can totally be skipped.
Nancy
Three people heading for a tragedy you can see coming but you can't stop happening. Wonderful writing and very interesting characters. Cover says "A Novel of Suspense" but that's not what I'd call it--it's more of a psychological study.
Esthy
After reading Among the Missing, I am afraid my expectations were too high. Half Broken Things is the story of lonely, traumatized people whose paths have crossed. The pages are laced with a feeling of inevitable horror, but the pace is slow, and just because characters are lonely, traumatized and for the most part up to no good, doesn't make them interesting. I was able to finish the book out of a mild curiosity about the outcome and an appreciation for the skill of Joss's writing. However, had...more
Sydnee
The front cover claimed it was a novel of suspense. After reading it I think it was a novel of anything but suspense! It was creepy but not suspenseful or thrilling.
Yulia
Subtle, melancholy, and gripping without the usual tricks of the genre--a great surprise.
Shilpa
The Scottish author won a Silver Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association for this wonderfully dark psychological thriller.

Jean is an elderly house-sitter, just asked to leave her job. But not before she finishes her last assignment of taking care of a secluded country home.

Michael is a petty thief who steals church artifacts to get enough cash to buy tinned soup.

Steph is the abused pregnant girlfriend of a brute, who one day gives in to her impulse and runs away from her boyfriend. She...more
Santica
The word that best sums up this book is probably, "disturbing." An elderly woman who has made a career out of house-sitting is completing her final assignment as her agency has deemed her too old to work any longer. With no family or proper retirement funds, she snaps and takes over "Walden Manor" as if it were her own. She wears the owners' clothes, sleeps in their bed, drinks wine from the cellar, changes the garden around, etc. Finally overcome by years of loneliness, she posts an ad claiming...more
Annelien
Morag Joss writes about forgetting and inventing in this book. She wants to show how people create a new world for themselves and how deeply you can bury yourself in it.

The story is simple and about 3 people. One is an elderly lady named Jean, who housesits for wealthy people but is getting too old to continue the job. She's going to do her last job at a gorgeous mansion, but after that she has nowhere to go, no family or friends and no house. She starts to invent a new life for herself, while l...more
Carol
Half Broken Things by Morag Joss was recommended to me recently by a librarian friend. She said it was in her top 50 books of all-time. The conversation had started when I mentioned how much I had liked the movie Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and how true it stayed to the book. She offered that Half Broken Things was another film adaptation that was excellent. She suggested though, that I read the book first. And I am glad I did.

Right off the bat, the book sounded like it would appeal to me. The j...more
Patricia
I picked this book from the library on a whim, really, and I'm so glad I did. It's about a 64 year old woman who is a house sitter. She's staying in this really big mansion of a house by herself, then circumstances bring a pregnant young woman and a young man who is nearly a criminal, to the house. They begin all living there as a "family" and begin to bond to one another. They all 3 come from very difficult childhoods, and have never had a sense of belonging to anyone or any particular place. T...more
Fajar
Jun 28, 2008 Fajar rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nindya Prastiwi
If you’re anything like me, you must have some judgement ( however slight ) of a book you’re going to read. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be interested to read any books at all.

Half Broken Things, I’m ashamed to say, is one of the books that I underestimated. Two days later, after I finished reading it, I was completely humiliated. Not that I mind, though..

You know.. I’ve always been fascinated by writers who can take some dull, bland and tasteless events and painted them with his words to form a vivid...more
Peter
DNF. This is a book about crazy and stupid people being crazy and stupid. I suppose it's possible some might find this a gripping look inside the mind of a mentally ill person, but the book keeps flipping out of first-person crazy person narration to normal old 3rd person.
This should tell you if you will like this book: here's the first thing that happens. 64-year-old professional housesitter arrives at empty house she's sitting for the next like 9 months, gets call from housesitting agency.
Agen...more
Jamie VW
The more I think about this novel, the tempo of the story just doesn't fit. The prose is inventive and witty, the characters sympathetic, artful in their unselfconscious imperfection, the inconsistent and clearly untrustworthy narrator is reminiscent of, if not as subtle and intelligent as Nabokov's Hermann in Despair, materialism personified and vilified quite creatively. What fissures all these strengths is the music of the story, a failed concerto, so incredibly slow at the beginning that it...more
Laren
Had I not been stuck in a doctor's office when I began this novel, I might not have read far enough to know what a good book it really is. It starts out slow, but gradually the three main characters, all of whom have something to hide, come together and that is where the book really gets interesting. Together they form a sort of family, but due to their hidden pasts, they congregate into a deluded groupthink with ultimately tragic results. This is a complex peek into the psychology of some "dama...more
Melinda
Jun 26, 2007 Melinda added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ruth Rendell fans
I like the occasional British psychological thriller for pure escapism. This book started out very slow, and I set it aside several times, but then on a 12-hour car trip to visit family, I resumed reading. I was drawn into Joss' dark tale of a lonely woman with a damaged soul and the misfit young couple that she encounters and adopts. Together, they create their own family and enjoy a temporary idyllic season. Horror and real-life eventually encroach upon their paradise. Though the characters ar...more
Lori
Between Hanukkah, the recent ice storms and the semester wrap-up, I've not found much time for books of late. And honestly, I've been in the middle of this one for weeks and weeks -- I kept putting it down to get through something else.

There's a reason. Its first few chapters are slow, plodding. Honestly, I cared very little about the housesitting old lady.
But Joss lulled me into compliance, thinking the book was very different than it was about to become.

It starts to pick up with the appearanc...more
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She is the author of six novels, including the Sara Selkirk series, and the Silver Dagger winning Half Broken Things. She began writing in 1996 after a short story of hers was runner-up in a national competition sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine. A visit to the Roman Baths with crime writer P.D. James germinated the plot of her first novel, Funeral Music, the first in the Sara Selkirk series...more
More about Morag Joss...
Among the Missing Our Picnics in the Sun The Night Following Funeral Music Puccini's Ghosts

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