House of Sticks by Peggy Frew

Bonnie and Pete live in inner city Melbourne with their three young children. Pete is self-employed, and Bonnie has put her career as a guitarist on hold to be a full-time mother. They don’t have a lot of money, but get by and are essentially content with their lives.  Until, that is, an old mate of Pete’s turns up and insinuates himself into their family. Pete accepts Doug’s presence with vague good humour, but Bonnie is not sure if Doug likes her and finds his opinions and manner disconcerting. She begins to wonder if something more sinister is going on, and Doug becomes the catalyst for a crisis in Bonnie and Pete’s relationship.

House of Sticks won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Award for best unpublished manuscript, and is Peggy Frew’s first novel. She really knows her subject matter, having been bassist for indie band Art of Fighting and having three young children herself, and it shows in this very assured debut. The characters feel like people you know, even the creepy Doug, and she has a marvellous ear for dialogue. Her prose is deceptively simple, and she builds up the tension masterfully. Can’t wait to see what she does next! Trade paperback, $29.95

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