Karla's Reviews > This is the House

This is the House by Deborah Hill
Rate this book
Clear rating

4.5 stars. When John Deems goes off to fight the British in the Revolution, his wife Hannah and daughter Molly are forced to rely on charity and shift for themselves. At war's end, John Deems is dead and Hannah has no place to go except serve as drudge and bedwarmer to the highly unpleasant Seth Adams. When Molly comes of an age to attract Adams' lecherous eye, Hannah hustles her off to the home of Quaker Elizabeth Warden, to be a live-in servant and semi-ward.

Molly is determined that she will learn everything she can, take any opportunity that presents itself, and never be poor again. Knowing her birth limits her somewhat when it comes to marital prospects, she sets her sights on Elijah Merrick, a middle-class man with a bright future at sea. She spins a web and waits for this fly to wander to his doom. He, genial little insect, doesn't even realize he's been set up, leaped on, and wrapped up snug and tight to be feasted on at her whim, his fortunes - when they come - sucked out of him before he's had a chance to finish counting the gold.

As you can see, I didn't think much of Molly. She really is a cold and calculating mercenary, her early misery in childhood warping her entire outlook and retarding her emotional development well into middle age. Once she ascends that coveted social ladder in the small Cape Cod town of Rockford, she whines and fumes like a child denied her pretties when Elijah's fortunes get battered about by politics and war. She does grow the eff up, eventually, but it's a very rocky road.

Highly ironic is that Molly prostitutes herself for security, just as her mother did, except that she makes the extra "sacrifice" of being married and forced to live a lie for a man and an entire town every day. And Molly does see her playacting as being one of the many things she has to suffer to make others feel like everything is perfect. To be fair, she has some affection for him (he gives her stuff), but as for those things called PASSION and LOVE, well, those are reserved for the man Molly moons over for years, the ne'er-do-well Isaac Warden.

Even though I wanted to bitchsmack her many times, Molly's motives were understandable and it certainly made for good drama as she navigates a tricky path on her way up the social ladder as Queen Bee of Rockford, whereupon she can steamroll or manipulate at will. Like most of these kinds of characters, there is a downfall and I was both smug that it happened and impressed with how she handled it. It really tapped into what I feel is the New England character (at least the nostalgic old-timey view of it).

Elijah was a genial guy, and I really liked him, though I wanted to throttle him because he was so nice and clueless. Even a thought of Molly's lady parts made him a willing lapdog, deluding himself that he was the one in charge. The misery that comes both his and Molly's way is pretty well-deserved for their blindness to what's in front of them.

The setting of maritime Cape Cod was marvelous. The local politics (at vast odds with Washington) and their effect on all the levels of society there were woven in really well with the story. Most amusing were the small-town clan rivalries ("A King would never entertain a Hall in their house!"). The snobbish attitudes of those on the north side of Rockford (ship mariners and farmers) towards those on the south side of the town (hardscrabble fishermen) was a constant theme as outside events influenced how these two stubborn camps interacted. It was a vivid little picture of pastoral New England, with a red meat soap opera of ambition and adultery in the foreground.

The last part of the book lagged somewhat with Molly's dilemma entirely of her own making, and her whingefests about everything going wrong, but the finale was a real corking slice of Puritan Yankee humble pie (Mmmm mmmm, my favorite!) and made me eager to continue this saga with the sequel, The House of Kingsley Merrick.
7 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read This is the House.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

05/30/2012 page 29
6.0% ""As parlormaid Molly learned to expect nothing from the rich by way of courtesy or consideration--and she also learned to keep a distance from them as the old men, especially, were fond of pinching. She learned that rich women were bitches.""
05/31/2012 page 99
20.0% "If I lay down, I get stuffed up (damn allergies). So I might as well keep reading....
This book, 'tis very good."
05/31/2012 page 143
29.0% "In a way, I'm glad my allergies kept me up most of the night. This book is great!

And Molly, you are a friggin' DOLT. Falling for the same trick like serving girls since time immemorial.

06/02/2012 page 203
41.0% "Molly is really a gray character. Conniving, yet plucky. I want to cut her bitchface for using Elijah so callously, but I also want her to kick society ass and take names in priggish little Rockford." 3 comments
06/02/2012 page 251
50.0% "I wonder if Molly's brazen, ballsy luck will run out one of these days. She's really pushing the envelope with this latest social-climbing scheme." 1 comment
06/02/2012 page 272
54.0% "A session with the belt is NOT going to help matters."
06/03/2012 page 283
56.0% "Clapboards, he could hear his mother intone, are an invention of the devil. They are tools of man's pride, telling the world he considers himself better than others. We have always used shingles, and I hope we always shall. They are simple, and the Lord favors them." 2 comments
06/03/2012 page 385
77.0% "Playing the tiniest violin just for you, Molly."
06/04/2012 page 416
83.0% "This violin solo is getting pretty long. :P"
06/04/2012 page 458
91.0% "Oh, you just HAD to say that before you up and died!"

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

JadedlilFecker So difficult for me to even open up the best seller pages, when you girls work so tirelessly providing us with AMAZING literature. Why would we ever want to go contemporary? ;p I could shun Amazon.com forever, as long as I have Goodreads with you girls!

Karla And this one has been reissued - last month, as a matter of fact! So far it's one of those books that deservedly made it back in print.

What??!?!? You'd rather read something like this instead of 50 Shades? For shame! You'd make a bad pop culture lemming. :P

JadedlilFecker Ooo, I need to make a new shelf, "BUY, do not steal: Warning, reissue". LOL

Well, it's either something old and thorough, or the Speak-and-spell quality of 50 Shades. lol (I know, those cutdowns are getting nastier along with my fatigue!)

Karla Keep slamming it. I can't get enough of the 1 star reviews for it on this site. When I need lolz, I check for new ones or re-read Alicia's review.

message 5: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Mermarie wrote: "So difficult for me to even open up the best seller pages, when you girls work so tirelessly providing us with AMAZING literature. Why would we ever want to go contemporary? ;p I could shun Amazon...."

I love these older historicals, especially the ones with no reviews and/or ratings. You never know what you'll get.

JadedlilFecker YES, with a missing cover, no description. I just have to know what that book is about. It could be something we've none uncovered. LOL

JadedlilFecker Make sure you keep your wishlist updated, Karla! :D

Sarah Didn't you originally grade this one a Five? Or did I miscount the little gold stars on my iPhone screen?

Anyhoo...I finished it last night. :D I liked the NE politics stuff, but my biggest snagging point was the lengthy descriptions of shipping practice & sailing & boats & whatnot. I'm fine watching ships on tv, but sailing on the page never fails to hit my inner snooze button. I have no idea why. I'd rather the book had been 50 pages shorter sans the sailing stuff in Elijah's sections.

Karla Yeah, I decided to bounce it down to 4 to 4.5, rather than in the 4.5 to 5 range. :P

I haz a method.

I liked the sailing stuff (sez the Patrick O'Brian fan :D)

Sarah See, I was reading it & thought "I bet Karla is squeeing over this Jack Aubrey stuff."


Not for the keeper shelf, huh?

Karla Nope, passing it along to Mermarie. I loved it, but I don't think I'd read it again. Trying to be ruthlessly realistic about things like that. :P

However, I'll keep the WTFlolz books around for a re-read. Looking at you, The Pagan and Passion's Sweet Sacrifice. :D

Sarah Good call. *nod* That's how I'm trying to be about my PNR & YA piles (and their easy-peasy swap value helps too, heh). I doubt I'll read TITH again either, but I'll keep it until I read #2 & decide both fates then.

Karla Hey look, the chick on the reissue cover for this also shows up on the Turkish version of The Winthrop Woman.

back to top