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A Bird in the House (Manawaka Sequence)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,066 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
One of Canada’s most accomplished authors combines the best qualities of both the short story and the novel to create a lyrical evocation of the beauty, pain, and wonder of growing up.

In eight interconnected, finely wrought stories, Margaret Laurence recreates the world of Vanessa MacLeod – a world of scrub-oak, willow, and chokecherry bushes; of family love and conflict;
Paperback, 200 pages
Published January 1st 1989 by New Canadian Library (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a hard time being objective with this read since I read it for my Canadian Short Stories class and had to present on it for three hours. THREE HOURS. I TALKED. A LOT. ABOUT IT.

I think it's a really sad book. And I found the ending a bit defeatist. I thought the family dynamic was really toxic. But I also thought it was interesting.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
3.75 out of 5 stars

"I went upstairs to my room. Momentarily I felt a sense of calm, almost acceptance. Rest beyond the river. I knew now what that meant. It meant Nothing. It meant only silence forever.”

Really enjoyed all the symbolism as well as the characters and their relationships.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Me ha recordado mucho a una pelicula, "El Rio" de Jean Renoir. Una pena que Margaret Laurence no haya sido editada en castellano, una escritora inmensa a la altura de Alice Munro o Margaret Atwood.Qué buenas son las escritoras canadienses!!!!l
Lola Estelle
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a classic. The writing is pitch perfect, the stories all-consuming. A truly wonderful collection of short stories.
Laina SpareTime
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Cross-posted from my blog where there's more information on where I got my copy and links and everything.

This was a hidden gem! There are probably a lot of people who are chuckling at me realizing this, though. But I hadn't ever heard of this besides seeing it on my shelves. The format of this is really interesting, as the timeline jumps around at times, and everything is being told by adult Vanessa about her childhood self and family.

(Hence why this is an adult novel about a young character, no
Janet Aird
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
These short stories are all told by Vanessa MacLeod, a child growing up in a home dominated by her crotchety grandfather. Vanessa's gentle grandmother and their two daughters, Vanessa's mother and Vanessa's frustrated Aunt Edna also live in the home. The characters, their relationships and their stories were more interesting to me than they normally would have been because they were seen through the eyes of a child who was struggling to understand them. Laurence captures Vanessa beautifully.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really nice easy read about a young girl growing up in Canada. I felt like I was reading about someone's own childhood- very believable characters that you came to care about. It's quite a short book & I would have been happy to have a few more chapters...a little gem.

It reminded me of something else & I think I finally put my finger on what it was...Vanessa reminded me of Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird".

Daniel Kukwa
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
I love Margaret Laurence's characters: infuriating, indomitable, patient, exasperated, and deeply compelling. This novel masquerading as a short story collection is full of such memorable characters, and they enhance simple, direct, straightforward tales of love, life, and loss. It reads like the quintessential work of CanLit; they should all feel, smell, and sound like this.
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Read for an undergrad english course
Liz Barlow
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Laurence is a master craftsman when it comes to short stories. Descriptions are vivid and the characters are people we have all known so the sense of familiarity relaxing and engaging. Poignancy, humour and an honesty in the telling all adds to a great reading experience.
Emily Elizabeth
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 ⭐ only because it’s not a novel I would typically pick up as it’s for ENG course but enjoyed it all the same. ...more
Anna Karol
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book. Terribly adorable. Easy to relate to Vanessa and her peers.
Oct 05, 2012 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
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Laura Gpie
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Lucy Amalia Turner
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Heather Josephine Pue
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2011 added it
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 21, 2012 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
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
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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
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  • The Fire-Dwellers
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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.” 5 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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