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Nia Gordon-Meniru, Ashmole Academy

The Smell of Other People's Houses

'The Smell of Other People's Houses' is a novel from the shortlisted that I enjoyed to high extent; it is based upon the intertwining of four contrasting teenagers who are accustomed to the challenges of Alaska 1970. In contrast to the novels I have read from the shortlist such as: 'Wolf Hollow' and 'The Bone Sparrow', 'The Smell of Other People's Houses' is written in multiple perspectives. Bonnie-Sue-Hitchcock's use of multiple narration by each teenager (Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank) was extremely engaging to me as a reader. This is mainly because each different daily account 'story' gradually became one like a puzzle. This expressed that although each character is fairly different and endures non-identical adversities, difference brings us together.

'The Smell of Other People's Houses' features key themes of acceptance, friendship, negligence and love. Acceptance is a recurring theme within the novel-which is displayed as the plot progresses when challenges are bestowed upon Dora and Ruth. Dora was a character I found most interesting, mainly because of her difficult background and how she ran away from it. Dora in the novel is highlighted as a 'native' which demonstrates significance throughout. As a result of Dora being a 'Native' (Eskimo) she is able to re-tell her story and the many challenges within it through a 'natives' perspective.

The novel illustrates Alaska 1970 as lowly developed and culturally divided. This is evident within the school life of the teenagers, where Dora is name teased only because she's a native- by a wealthy boy Ray. In addition, there is a huge gap between rich and poor- many of the poorer characters such as Dora and Ruth live in the deprived neighbourhood of Birch Park where they are subject to gambling and oppression. Despite the clear poverty, fishing is an element of the novel which brings the characters together and eliminates sadness. Although, Fishing is such a happy, family orientated aspect of Bonnie-Sue-Hitchcock's novel, it is jeopardise by the lack of success of 'Statehood'. Meaning that Alaska's fishing policies must abide to what the American government require.

Even though the novel's explicit title:'The Smell of Other People's Houses', the novel expresses a deeper meaning, which is the atmosphere released by the interactions and personalities of others within key places of the book. For example; Ruth's house is drowned in darkness and dismay because of the secrets hidden and depression in it.

Overall, I really enjoyed 'The Smell of Other People's Houses' mainly because the multiple narration which was extremely compelling and engaging. I would recommend this book to all readers as it is quite an easy read and it's extremely interesting with its use of embedding culture with in it. Furthermore, I really like this book because I was able to learn so many new facts and realities of Alaska and Native Americans.

Posted on: 18th June 2017 at 08:42 pm

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