The Good House, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman's life - middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town.

But Hildy isn't one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

When her two earnest grown-up children stage an 'intervention' and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous.

After all, why shouldn't she enjoy a drink now and then?But we start to see another side to Hildy Good, and to her life's greatest passion.

Soon, a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, with devastating consequences...


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"My first name is Hilda, which my children have always told me sounds like a witch's name, but I'm called Hildy. I live alone; my daughters are grown up and my husband is no longer my husband. I talk to animals..some people think I have powers of intuition, psychic powers, which I don't. I just know a few tricks...I tend to know everyone's business...[and] I'm the top real-estate agent in a town whose main industries are antiques and real estate." p5This is how our narrator, fifty nine year old Hildy Good, introduces herself in The Good House. She seems like an ordinary woman, a lifelong resident of Wendover, Massachusetts, sipping a club soda with lime at a housewarming party, chatting cheerfully with other guests. She mentions in passing she is in "recovery", and has recently returned from rehab after an intervention staged by her daughters, an over-reaction on their part she assures us. A few hours later Hildy is at home, finishing a bottle of wine from the stash she hides in the garage, before stripping off to skinny dip in the icy cold river at the bottom of her garden, laughing under the moonlight.Related in the first person by Hildy, The Good House is a character driven novel, a story of small towns, family, love, deception and denial. It reveals tensions and prejudices, infidelity, elitism, and dysfunction but focuses on Hildy's alcoholism and its effects on herself and others.While we are inclined to trust Hildy's observations about herself and others initially, we soon learn that she is an entirely unreliable narrator. In order to deny the truth of her alcohol addiction, Hildy's perspective on her family, friends and the community is slightly warped. She claims her daughters are ungrateful, prone to exaggerating the effects of her drinking, she fails to recognise the instability of newcomer Rebecca, too relieved to find someone she can drink with who won't pass judgement, and imagines the concern of her lifelong friend, psychiatrist Peter Newbold, to be for sinister reasons of his own. Few will find Hildy a wholly likeable character, but I thought Leary portrayed her in a compassionate manner. Hildy is a supportive mother, a doting grandmother, and an intelligent, successful woman but her addiction is all consuming and everything she is, is tainted by alcohol. As Hildy continues to drinking heavily she begins to suffer blackouts and hallucinations but is convinced she is still in control, her secret safe, until the coincidence of a damaged fender and a missing child shatters her illusions.There is little action in the novel, with the suspense largely stemming from Hildy's gradual slide to 'rock bottom', still I found the narrative compelling. Leary's depiction of alcoholism is subtle rather than sensational, foregoing high drama for a realistic exploration of what addiction looks like amongst a demographic ignored by the media. The supporting characters and some of the minor subplots orbit around Hildy, never really having a life of their own, but add interest to the story.The Good House is an interesting, poignant and surprisingly witty portrayal of a woman's struggle with alcohol addiction and I found it both engaging and entertaining.FYI, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro have signed to star in the screen adaption, and I will be eager to see the film when it is released.

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