This review is part of the AWW2017 Challenge
Alicious imagery drips from every page of Anna Spargo-Ryan’s debut novel The Paper House. It is a novel of flowers and gardens; of bodies that do not behave in the way their owners expect them to; of confusing non-sequiturs and unavoidable miscommunications; of whispered dangers and the scent of impending doom. But while Alice was able to wake from her dream, Spargo-Ryan’s protagonist, Heather, must find her way back to herself by a far more circuitous and potentially fatal route.
In the wake of a late-stage miscarriage, Heather falls apart. Over the course of the novel, we watch her slowly disintegrate and dissolve; her husband, father, and sister unable to put her back together again. Haunted by childhood memories of her mother’s mental illness, Heather becomes lost in a Wonderland of memories in which she is both child and mother, both carer and patient. Heather’s struggle with her mental health affects everyone around her, and Spargo-Ryan’s portrayal of a fundamentally likeable group of characters inadvertently hurting each other makes for a truly heartbreaking journey.
The greatest pleasure of this novel is to be found in the visceral specificity of Spargo-Ryan’s playful prose. It is a wonderfully written work and impossible to put down from the first page. If you have not yet read it, do; if have read it, do so again.