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Yasmin, St Augustines Catholic College

The Smell of Other People's Houses

I found this book enjoyable to read,because there was a simple yet deep meaning to it. I could say it was "easy" to read,but this is purely because the font was larger, and it dealt with a time in history that we were not affected by.
The novel starts with a somewhat happier version of the first main character's life, which is later comparable with the greater struggles she faces. This book is one which the theme progresses.
Title- wise, this book presents the sense of smell as a key feature, every scene is described with a certain smell, making this book very unique. Every time a scene was mentioned, I instantly knew what the smell was. This intricate feature works excellently with the first person narrative. As all the characters face different problems, the first person helped me see what all the characters felt. A deep, meaningful journey is experienced by all characters as they try to rebuild their lives and find new homes. The journey of the first character ends with the same idea as the start- her heart ended up“not all beat out” , I thought this linked the whole book together, even though it seemed at the start that it was going to be separate.
However, I noticed just by reading the blurb of the book that “The Smell of other People's Houses” is very similar to another book shortlisted: “Salt to the Sea”. I understand that the themes are slightly different, and the time period is different, but I feel that I was reading the same climax in both stories.Also , I found it quite disappointing that I could grasp how the book was going to end, early on. I think some parts were a little too predictable. The changing of the characters evokes some relativity, growing up is particularly apparent in this book.
As much as I found this book enjoyable to read, I found there not to be much meaning contained within it. The author chose to write about a period of time in Alaska, which would be difficult to write about anyway; but it is certainly a unique setting for the book.
The cover of the book is deceivingly childish compared to the theme of the book, a teenage pregnancy is inserted in the novel, creating a more mature idea for the reader. Therefore, it makes me think that this book could be aimed at a slightly higher age category (12+).
Misfortune within the book makes you sympathize with certain characters, and makes you dislike others. The children in the book deal with problems, and it is interesting how they solve them. The poems that introduce each season are very interesting, and very cleverly done as the contents of the poem links to the contents of the next “season” in the book.
My overview is that it may not be a winner of the Carnegie, because it does not compare to the other books themes.

Posted on: 1st June 2017 at 10:34 am

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