The Paper House
Picador $29.99 pb, 295 pp, 9781743535202
The Paper House begins benignly, even buoyantly, with a recently married couple, a new house, and the stirrings of pregnancy. But the intense grief that suddenly upheaves the narrative sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Set on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, this début is an affecting portrait of a family pulled together and wrenched apart by mental illness. After a loss, Heather sinks into a quicksand of sadness that threatens to pull her under. Anna Spargo-Ryan handles her fall with considerable empathy. Heather's husband, Dave, shares her sense of dislocation, 'For five days we sent our bodies into the world without us.' But it takes more than just him to help shoulder and redistribute the pain; Heather's sister, Fleur, and her father, Bruce, as well as a motley group of neighbours, rally round and help her, in their own idiosyncratic ways.