Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Not at all for me. Burning Down the House was a study of a pretentious, narcissistic and pretty much just awful family. I was expecting a moving drama in the style of The Color of Our Sky, but instead got a different version of the spoiled group in Everybody Rise. For example this – “…swept past like some well-appointed band of itinerant jugglers or magicians, circus performers impersonating aristocrats. An understatedly luxurious scarf of ostrich feathers trailed behind Poppy, a plume of smoke from her neck.” And this – “But his narcissism is a part of him that he has not yet had to examine or tackle or renounce and so in his personal life he is very often destructive. He is not, at least, as destructive as some people. He knows that, takes some remote comfort in it. ” Horrible people being horrible to each other was the entire theme of the book.
There was one character that I enjoyed in the beginning and again in the end, Neva, the Russian nanny was a force and if her story was more prominent, or the other characters more like her, Burning Down the House could have been amazing. Instead I read a book about a family destined to implode while they treated themselves and others as expendable. I also did not really get the thriller aspect. Yes, there were things that happened, and an issue to solve, but thriller status it did not reach. The descriptions also made me frustrated. Sentences such as “Steve’s face was blank. A blinding blankness like an overcast sky on a March day in the Northeast when there is no sun and no birds and a dead stillness that crushes all hope.” and “Like a great ponderous mastodon he lumbered down the hallway toward the vast kitchen…” abounded. I get it, you have a thesaurus, but most of the time simple is much more effective.
Jane Mendelsohn can write and she did have small moments and phrases sprinkled throughout that kept me reading, hoping for more. I think others may love this style, but it is just not for me. I want an honest story that is clean and crisp and characters I can feel with. Burning Down the House was not that at all. Stripped down and without all of the over description I think I would have loved this, but I just could not get past the characters to meld with the story.
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.