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The Paper House

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  554 ratings  ·  103 reviews

Longlisted for the ABIA's 2017 Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year

"There's something magical about The Paper House." The Sydney Morning Herald

And then I was pregnant, and we realised we had no space for a baby.

We looked at all kinds of houses: big, new ones with columns and render; little cottages with beaten weatherboard; a yellow brick monstro

Kindle Edition, 248 pages
Published May 31st 2016 by Picador Australia
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  554 ratings  ·  103 reviews

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Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrea by: Malcolm
Heather and Dave are young, married and in love. After moving around a bit with Dave's job as a relief teacher, they are ready to start a family and escape to the country. It's all going well for them - until it isn't.

This is the debut novel for Anna Spargo-Ryan, who writes beautifully and powerfully about mental illness. It's a subject I wish I understood better, because if I did, it might have occurred to me a lot sooner to start questioning what in the story was real and what wasn't. Don't ge
D.M. Cameron
Wow this woman can write! Her proze is gobsmackingly beautiful. I wanted to fall into her writing forever. The only thing I craved was more of a plot line. Can't wait to see what she writes next. I am a definite fan. ...more
Helen King
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian
I started reading this novel with some trepidation, because I've read Anna's short stories and articles before. I'd built some expectations and what if they weren't met? So I tried staying a bit detached but couldn't for long - this story drew me in. From the early stages, where life for Heather and Dave was rolling out as it should, to the devastation of a life lost, and the way everyone tried to make sense, to work out how to be within this new world - the afterwards - the storyline was grippi ...more
Tonile {My Cup and Chaucer}
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most touching, heartfelt novels I've had the joy of reading in quite some time. ...more
Kirsty Dummin
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think that mental health is often quite a taboo subject, particularly to fictionalise. Anna Spargo-Ryan does it so well in The Paper House. The story is sensitive without being overtly emotional and the plot is clever, yet realistic. There are many subtleties entwined throughout the book that allow even deeper thought, which I particularly enjoyed. However, my favourite thing about this book is the pace in which the prose is presented. If this book were a house it would be clean and crisp and ...more
Nathan Woolford
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Occasionally I read a book that reaches deep inside and turns me inside out. A truly wonderful, wondrous, real, unreal, touching and thoughtful story. I can't recommended it any more highly. ...more
Cassie Robinson
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I think this is a beautifully written book and a wonderful debut, but it didn't really have an affect on me as much as it seems to have had with others. I felt removed from the characters the whole time, perhaps because Heather herself is in such an isolated state of mind. I could imagine how painful it would be to be in their situation, but I was never made to really feel anything until the end. To me, that was the realest moment in the book and I think if there were more real moments mixed int ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
An astonishing debut out of Australia. When a young woman's first pregnancy ends in miscarriage, it triggers childhood memories of the figurative and then all-too-literal absence of her mentally ill mother. Despite the imperfect support of loved ones, the protagonist goes to some very dark places. Moving, with both light-hearted and heavy moments, it's ultimately a hopeful tale. The occasionally uneven prose is liberally dotted with, to paraphrase Bohumil Hrabal, sentences so luscious I wanted t ...more
Giselle A Nguyen
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could wrap myself in the poetry of this book. It is exquisitely written - so many sentences I could live in - and the story is desperately sad, but also somehow hopeful. A really beautiful read.
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then, a very special book comes along. A book that stands out from the crowd with a unique voice, heart-filled story and stunningly beautiful prose. The Paper House is one of those books.

Anna tells a story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, with a gentle tenderness that is evident in every word on the page. Dealing with issues such as mental illness, childloss and the intricacies of family isn't an easy task, yet Anna does so with a delicate, empathetic hand allowing the
Jessica Currie
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Heather has suffered an unspeakable and utterly devastating loss, and the cadendece and rhythm of Anna's words makes you FEEL everything that is happening in her heart and her soul. It honestly hurt to read this book. My chest is tightening up even as I think about it to write this.... And I know am incredibly privileged to have experienced that. Highly recommended but would note it is not suitable if you just want a light little casual read. ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, poetic novel of grief and family.

The writing is spirited and evocative. I was in that garden with Heather, her pain was palpable. There was so much insight and understanding here, it was heartbreaking yet hopeful.

I adored this, an incredible debut. I can't wait to read whatever Anna writes next.
Kylie Maslen
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most intensely beautiful books I've ever read. Honest, tender, moving. Just stunning. Full review up now on book-plate here:
Dee Madigan
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Anna's writing makes my heart hurt.
Do not read while wearing mascara.
Megan Maurice
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A devastatingly beautiful read with vivid imagery and relatable characters, this was an absolute joy to read. Can't wait for more from Anna Spargo-Ryan. ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow - if that is her debut I look forward to her next novel.

This story was so well written and oh so sad.
Gyan Yankovich
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Paper House is written with the same beauty as The Bell Jar. This book took me longer to read than expected because every single sentence deserves a pause of appreciation.
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
STANDING OVATION! For the author, for her brilliant writing, for her original, creative metaphors. BRILLIANT. My eyes welled up by page 8 and by page 10 I was crying. The story - as sad it is, with characters trying to manage loss, depression, and mental illness - is one of hope. I was captivated at every page turn through to the end, where I read with tears streaming from my eyes and nose. The author's 'OTHER THINGS OF NOTE' is a lovely afterword that gives further closure to the story.

This qu
Sarah Van Der Wal
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is heart wrenching, gut twisting, sob inducing brilliance. The prose is exquisite, and the story amazing, but most importantly, the characters are delicately built but utterly complete.
It would have been so easy to add one, or a hundred cliches in this book - there are none.

Read this. Then make everyone you know read it.
Michael Livingston
A heartbreaking story of grief, and the way things reverbrate across generations. Spargo-Ryan writes beautifully, with surprising metaphors and a knack for drawing whole characters with just a few well chosen scenes.
Rebecca Bowyer
This is an incredible book. It drifts seamlessly from real to unreal until the reader is left questioning everything.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a superbly written debut, swollen with rich prose and gentle sentiment. The steady tide of tragedy was delicately handled, but for me this book was too slow to truly sweep me away.
I teared up a little on the final page. Beautifully written book with an elegant and simple storyline that drifts between present, past and fantasy. As a Melbournian I also appreciated the local flavour.

While it was beautiful, I'm not sure I would read it again. I found the portrayal of the men/women, carer/cared-for dynamics a little bit off and odd. All of the main female characters in this book (Heather, Fleur, their mum and Sylvia) are all cared for as a focus of the novel (i.e. we only int
John James
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a notoriously slow reader. It usually takes me a few weeks to read a book, but I read Anna Spargo-Ryan's debut novel, The Paper House, in 7days; that's speed-reading for me.

You would think a book that tells the story of a woman falling into a spiral of anxiety, depression, and mental illness after her daughter is still-born would be a dark, bleak, impossible read, but The Paper House is almost the opposite. The subject matter is dark, but Anna's use of language is remarkable and playful, the
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Paper House is a beautiful, tender book. Its heart beats with poetry. Anna Spargo-Ryan writes with depth, empathy, and insight - taking tiny moments and distilling them, allowing the reader to sit and feel the impact of what's happening. The whole time I was reading I felt that I was in a dream, floating along with the words, colours whirling and unfolding around me. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks as I think the child's voice is incredibly strong, balanced with humour and pain. A wond ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t heard of Anna Spargo-Ryan’s novel, The paper-house, when it was sent to me for review, which is not surprising given it’s a debut novel. However, I loved the cover – designed by one of Australia’s top book designers, Sandy Cull – and so was more than willing to give it a go. It traverses some familiar ground, grief and loss, and mental illness, but it did so differently enough to keep me well engaged. For my full review, please see ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
It's been a few months since I've breezed through a book the way I did The Paper House, and gosh it's a great feeling. I felt completely swept up by this story, which is, to be frank, a bone-achingly sad one, but which Anna Spargo-Ryan paints with the most beautiful, fluid prose such that it is a true joy to read. ...more
Panos Dionysopoulos
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and filled with genuine and real characters, this book made me reflect a lot of my own struggles with depression and those of the people close to me. It's a well-written journey that manages to make you smile as it pulls you down with the main character. Very highly recommended. ...more
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This has to be one of the best books I've read for a long time. Both heartbreaking and beautiful at once and so well written you can't help but be swallowed up into the rhythmic tidal plot. ...more
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Anna Spargo-Ryan is an award-winning Melbourne writer. She is the author of THE PAPER HOUSE (Picador 2016) and THE GULF (Picador 2017). Her new book, a work of nonfiction about mental illness, will be published by Picador in 2021.

Anna won the 2016 Horne Prize for her essay "The Suicide Gene". You can find her other work in Best Australian Essays, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin, Overland, The Lifted B

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“To speak of ‘trying again’ while her ghost was still in the room was an insult to both the child gone before and the child that might come after. The child before might be merely a precursor, a practice run, a whole person deemed sufficiently remembered and loved; while the child after might be a bandaid child, a second child, a replacement child. Without time taken to wait – not until the first child was forgotten but until the hideous burning fire of grief had dulled – neither child could be fully a person, but just a function of the other.” 0 likes
“I loved him from the back of my chest. I loved him from the bottoms of my feet. I tried to push my whole self right through him and out the other side, so he could feel the weightiness of my extraordinary, eclipsing love for him. He told me he loved me too, even though he had never pushed through me and out the other side.” 0 likes
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