Heap House (Iremonger Book 1) - Edward Carey

Clod is an Iremonger. He lives in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London. At the centre is Heap House, a puzzle of houses, castles, homes and mysteries reclaimed from the city and built into a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats.

The Iremongers are a mean and cruel family, robust and hardworking, but Clod has an illness. He can hear the objects whispering. His birth object, a universal bath plug, says ‘James Henry’, Cousin Tummis’s tap is squeaking ‘Hilary Evelyn Ward-Jackson’ and something in the attic is shouting ‘Robert Burrington‘ and it sounds angry.

A storm is brewing over Heap House. The Iremongers are growing restless and the whispers are getting louder. When Clod meets Lucy Pennant, a girl newly arrived from the city, everything changes. The secrets that bind Heap House together begin to unravel to reveal a dark truth that threatens to destroy Clod’s world.


Full of odd names, strange images, and dreary individuals reminiscent of Dickens, Heap House is a book that will be hard to forget, even if it is not necessarily your "cup of tea" (when you read the book, you'll see the reference there!) The novel is depressing and not altogether resolved--Carey leaves things open for the next two books in the trilogy--but there are many delightfully comedic moments to break up the melancholy (for example, when Clod is supposed to show his arranged and future wife his birth object, at which time a moment of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" ensues, giving readers a good chuckle.)

The novel moves from narrator to narrator, with the addition of a few journal entries, lists, and short biographies in between. The plot works well, based on the rather unconventional premise, though I did find myself wishing some of the longer and more, um, detailed passages were either shortened or removed to help with pacing. Carey's work is an interesting examination of a number of themes: class, consumerism, elitism, and death. The commentary on excess is actually the most intense and least metaphorical, really. The heaps are literally enveloping the house and its inhabitants, and the Iremongers are being overwhelmed with the refuse around them at the same time as they rely on objects for their very survival.
Of all the names I heard, the one I heard most of all was James Henry Hayward. That was because I always kept the object that said 'James Henry Hayward' with me wherever I went. It was a pleasant, young voice.
James Henry was a plug, a universal plug, it could fit most sink holes. I kept it in my pocket. James Henry was my birth object. 
The Iremonger full bloods occupy the upper floors of Heap House, which itself sits alone among the heaps of refuse and dirt brought in from London and other surrounding areas. The servants occupy the lower floors of the house, and while they are servants, they are still partly of Iremonger blood. Their names are forgotten and they are expected to work to keep the Up-Iremongers looked after. Things run relatively smoothly (apart from the loss of Iremonger servants to the Heaps) within the home, until Lucy Pennant shows up on the scene and everything goes crazy. Lucy doesn't subscribe to the rules the way others in the servant class do, just as Clod doesn't adhere to all the rules for the upper floor inhabitants. 

Though unconventional and at times disturbing, this book will find an audience with those who enjoy the bizarre and the Dickensian. Clod and Lucy will pull readers along through the novel, and the mystery of the voices that Clod hears, as well as the restless objects, will capture readers as they look for answers in each dark corner of Heap House.

Recommended

Comments

  1. This sounds really weird in just the way that I like, and I'm glad to hear that the topic of consumerism gets its due. Thanks for the recommendation.

    By the way, any chance of you changing your commenting thingy to allow comments with url and name? As you have it now, there are only options I either cannot log into or can only log into using my non-book related internet name (this is Nikki from Book Punks, by the way). Just wondering. There are a lot of blogs I can't comment on at all because of a similar issue, so I've just started asking people about it because I really like commenting.

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    1. Apologies! My tech know-how is limited and didn't even know that was a thing! I've changed it now so you can use url and name :) Thanks for the comment!

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