The House Swap: Rebecca Fleet

I liked the premise of Rebecca Fleet’s The House Swap. We live in a world that’s changed a great deal in the last few decades: the internet makes the globe smaller in some ways and also much more dangerous. Through the story of a troubled marriage, The House Swap shows the ease with people can elbow into our lives.

The House Swap

The novel opens in 2015 with Caroline and Francis, a married couple, parents of a small boy, traveling to Chiswick on a house-swap arrangement. Caroline signed onto a house swap site “on an idle whim,” but then was contacted by an S. Kennedy who expressed interest in swapping a Chiswick house for the couple’s flat in Leeds. Francis had wanted to go abroad, but Caroline nixed that due to concerns about leaving their son. So the book finds the couple, who’ve left the child with a grandmother, a bit combative and miffed with each other. Chiswick seems a poor exchange for Paris or Spain.

The truth underneath the choice of location is that neither Caroline nor Francis have the energy to rustle up a holiday that requires much planning. You see, their marriage is on the rocks. Caroline has been a bad girl, but their marriage has survived the affair. Sort of….

Not in the best of moods, the couple arrive at the Chiswick house. Caroline finds the house a bit odd.

It’s the emptiest house I have ever seen. Nothing on the walls, not even a mirror. Pale pine floorboards and smooth blank doors opening into near vacant rooms. 

Weird, weird weird…. But then things get weirder when Caroline finds items in the house that remind her of her former lover, and what of the nosy, pushy neighbour a few doors down.

The story goes back and forth in time through a few different voices, while the background of Caroline’s affair and her marriage to Francis unfolds. Francis is a therapist, and gradually we see what a wreck Francis is, his unhealthy behaviours and exactly what pushed Caroline towards another man. Against this backstory, events in the past also occur which trouble Caroline in the present; she’s tried shoving thoughts of the affair into the back of her mind, but the Chiswick house brings memories flooding back.

This is a domestic thriller about two married people who had a lot going for them but threw it away, and now the consequences are there, back in their lives in spite of their best efforts otherwise. The characters are not likable (which is often a plus for me) but they were also not terribly interesting. Caroline ‘wakes up’ too slowly IMO, but the novel is stronger when showing that when a marriage is wrecked, the pieces never fit together again…

Here’s another review at Cleopatra Loves Books.

review copy.


Filed under Blogging, Fleet Rebecca

6 responses to “The House Swap: Rebecca Fleet

  1. Just reading another story on the house swap lines. Good fun so far…highly fastidious composer Oskar has slacker would be writer friend mind his apartment (and cats)for a few weeks. Notes everywhere with particular emphasis on the wooden floors. The title is Care of Wooden Floors. Great potential for things to go disastrously wrong.

  2. Interesting premise, but the characters need to be meaty enough for something like this to work effectively. It sounds as if it might have been written with the TV market in mind.

  3. I might enjoy this although I would probably wish that the characters had more depth.

  4. Oh dear, I don’t like that idea that a marriage can’t be put back together again. I have seen two couples do (or try to do) it after an affair, and both seem to be working!

    I love you comment, though, that “the characters are not likable (which is often a plus for me) but they were also not terribly interesting.” Mr Gums and I were just talking today about this old issue of not liking books because you don’t like the characters. As you know, I’m with you. It’s whether the characters (and the ideas being explored) are interesting that’s important to me. This sounds like a book that may not quite know what it wants to be?

  5. “Your” comment, not “you”.

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