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Daughters of the House

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Man Booker Prize Nominee (1992)

Booker Prize Finalist, Daughters of the House is Michèle Roberts' acclaimed novel of secrets and lies revealed in the aftermath of World War II. Thérèse and Leonie, French and English cousins of the same age, grow up together in Normandy. Intrigued by parents' and servants' guilty silences and the broken shrine they find in the woods, the
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 11th 1993 by Virago Press (UK) (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Yvonne (Fiction Books)
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
As one of the most successful of Michele's novels to date, I guess I expected this to be a work of some worth and consequence and I can't say that I was disappointed. It has certainly made me eager to gather together some of her other novels, to add to my ever increasing TBR list.

It tells the story of two cousins, one French, the other English, raised together for much of their lives, by their respective mothers, at the family home in France.

Twenty years later, the French born cousin Therese,
Feb 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Anglo-French writer Michèle Roberts writes the story of cousins, one English, one French. Every short chapter is triggered by some household object in the house where Thérèse and Léonie both live in their teenage years. The book paints a vivid picture of French country-house life in the post-war years, and was a device I enjoyed, just as I enjoyed observing the girls' somewhat love-hate relationship develop, despite their closeness. But I was uninvolved in the plot itself, which I found rather ...more
Dec 10, 2011 rated it liked it
What is wrong with having a plot? Why are there endless books where nothing happens?
H.A. Leuschel
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This novel may be short but it shows skillful layering and evocation of different characters at different times of their lives as well as atmospheric scenes of village life in France after the second world war. The unfolding relationship between the two young cousins Thérèse and Leonie is what keeps the different threads of the stories together and explains the difficulties they have to find common ground when they eventually meet again twenty years later, when Thérèse returns to the village for ...more
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
2.5 stars. I expected that I would love this book; it has so many of my favorite plot elements. Ancestral family home? Check. Long buried family secrets? Check. A slightly unreliable narrator? Check. And yet, put all together, all these checks ended up adding up to a mediocre read, at best, for me.

A large part of my problem was the writing style. The chapters, each centered around an object in the Martin family home, were so short (typically just a few pages long) that I never really got into
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, booker
Murdoch could be responsible for my of this book. After reading 'Under the Net', this book felt heavy, dramatic and unnecessarily so.

Every family has secrets of what they think are of high importance. Non interesting to a voyeur most likely. That's how I felt about this book. Too much dramatization (the writing was pretty decent though) over nothing at all. Hmm.. Much ado about nothing, really.

Beth Asma
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The English writer Michèle Roberts wrote Daughters of the House. The novel is a narrative about provincial French Catholics in post-WWII Normandy and thirty years later. Cousins Thérèse and Léonie are the protagonists within the familial and village setting. The reader enters the intimacy of the girls' lives. We poach mackerel in the kitchen, experience sexual awakening, and celebrate the Virgin Mother in a nocturnal forest. Suspense is carried by random bits concerning a tragedy in the ...more
May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy reading about female friendships
I picked this book because I've always liked stories about intense female friendship - probably because my own friendships have always been intense. It wasn't what I was expecting at all - for a start the main characters in the book were younger than I'd thought. I thought it was a really good, honest story with probably very true reactions. There was a fantasy element to it that didn't go at all in the way I thought it would, and was never really resolved.

It was a good, sweet book about
Artie LeBlanc
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in rural France, this book captures the atmosphere of an inward-looking village, the weight of personal history, and the role of objects as well as people in our childhood memories.

The narrative repays slow reading, in fact it demands it, to absorb the detail. Notwithstanding, I read it quickly in order to find out what happens next ... ( I still do not really know) ...

The writing is unusual - very short chapters - and modern bookends to a 1950s childhood.

It is a book which will linger in
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I found this book to be very much a case of style over substance. There are some wonderful descriptions of the French village setting and cuisine, but that isn't enough to hold the uncoherent plot together.
Uma Blacher
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
It could have been an interesting read given the setting but there just was no story. Plenty of bits of 'not so important' information thrown in, chapters starting with no beginning with the so called secret turning out to but a non secret in my opinion. Disappointed.
Kali Napier
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
The set up of this novel was suspenseful and reeled me in until about two-thirds through, when it seemed to peter out and offered little resolution or answers. Therese returns to the family home after 20 years as a cloistered nun, to find her cousin Leonie ensconced as lady of the manor. Leonie bristles with such hostility towards her, I was hooked, wondering what the hell Therese had done to deserve such shabby treatment. Most of the story then retells their teenage years when Leonie comes to ...more
Helen Ennis
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A favourite setting - France. A favourite theme - the Second World War though only obliquely. Faith has a part to play too. This tale of two women reunited and the presentation of events they'd lived through from summers earlier slowly unfurls in an episodic manner. Bit difficult to work out who everyone is at first.
Helen Carolan
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
After reading her latest, "The Walworth Beauty", and enjoying it, I decided to give some of Ms Roberts's earlier books a go. This was very disappointing. A tale of two cousins who grow up in France after the war. Disjointed and a bit confusing. Not really her best.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The clipped descriptions bring this story to life. I loved being in this French home and delving through the story along with the girls. I felt like I was discovering the story along with them.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Was ok. Not memorable in my view.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Literally nothing happens. Skip this one.
Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rae Stoltenkamp
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I found the beginning of this book exceedingly confusing as I kept getting the central characters muddled up. This is because it switches from past to present from chapter to chapter but there’s nothing to use as a frame of reference except the content of the chapter to let the reader know this. Result – one very lost reader.

The further into the book I got the less confused it became. But nothing about the story made me want to shout about it. I found myself not caring terribly much about the
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I did enjoy this book, it was quite unusual but in a good way. I liked reading about a story set in France and really enjoyed the way everything was described, it gave me a good impression of what it was really like to be there. The book wasn’t one of those can’t put down books for me, it wasn’t very fast paced, but I did want to find out what happened and work out what was going on, so I did read it fairly quickly (although I was on a plane whilst reading it). I quite liked the short chapters, ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book! This is a book about two girl cousins who grew up together in Normandy France, went separate ways and then reunite after 20 years. The chapters are each about an object in their childhood house and usually very short. This style of writing made it very quick to read but made the narrative a little jumpy for me. I liked the detailed descriptions, getting a glimpse of country life in France after World War II, and how we really get to know the relationship between the cousins. I thought ...more
1.5 stars. I live in France and this novel sounded promising in its premise but I found the writing unnecessarily and almost pretentiously vague. The 'secret' was an anticlimax but perhaps I lost the point amongst the haze the writing drew me into. Unfortunately, this offering from Michèle Roberts finds itself at the bottom of my ratings for 2015.
Sonia Gomes
Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Beautiful book
My introduction to Michele Roberts!
It is a wonderful book and I do think it is a sort of autobiography, for Michele is part English and part French.
Two cousins meet a share golden moments in a beautiful country house, and stumble upon a terrible secret which everyone has been hiding.
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the story of two girls and the uncanny family home they grow up in, a Normandy house with an unsettling history. This is the kind of novel you get lost in: every detail of the house is filled in, every meal and shift of light, every emotion the protagonists experience. I loved this book.
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: post-bk-grp, 2003
I received this as part of a postal book group

I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did. The writing style annoyed me and the inference that the writer knew more about what was going on than the reader. I still didn't really know what had happened or who had done what at the end.
Jessica Meikle
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
The unfolding relationship between Thérèse and Leonie kept me hooked to this novel. I loved the way that the history of their families became entwined in present day as the girls grew older and learned more. A fantastic read - highly recommended.
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This books is so full of luscious detail that it is a privilege to read. This book should have won the Booker Prize in 1992 rather than only being a finalist. This is the best writing I have ever seen. Michele Roberts now is my favourite author.
This book was so tantalizing. I just like to read it again and again.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Evocative, haunting, and just a tiny bit unnerving.
Suzanne Jackson
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, beautifully descriptive, strange and compelling. An unusual read for me. I would recommend it!
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General Discussion 2 19 May 18, 2008 08:58AM  

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Michèle Brigitte Roberts is the author of fifteen novels, including Ignorance which was nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houses was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in June 2007. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud: ...more