My thanks to Elizabeth Preston at Simon ad Schuster UK for an advanced reader copy of ‘American Housewife’ by Helen Ellis in return for an honest review. ‘American Housewife’ is published by Scribner on 14th January 2016 and is available here in the UK and here in the US in both hardcover and ebook.
‘American Housewife’ by Helen Ellis is a collection of twelve short stories and commentaries written with a quirky eye for detail and often a cruel and incisive wit.
It’s genuinely difficult to define and review this collection as it lurches from one bizarre context to another mundane one in an instant so that reading it is like being on a roller coaster or watching a television sketch show. I think it is a book that will divide opinion but I really enjoyed it.
I found Helen Ellis’s writing original and hugely entertaining. I may have missed a few of the American nuances, but thought there was such intelligent wit in the stories. I laughed aloud several times and frequently wondered how Helen Ellis got away with some of the reference to real people and products. In one of her own tweets she says ‘I want to walk the line between tacky and fabulous’ and I think that is exactly what she has achieved with this collection.
There are several distinct voices, but the perpectives are all female so that men play a secondary role. Frequently the tone is sassy and acerbic so that reading ‘American Housewife’ is a little like eavesdropping a particularly bitchy conversation. There is murder and intrigue, love and deception. That said, there is also the full range of emotions such as sadness in The Fitter and empathy in Dumpster Driving with the Stars. As I read I kept thinking I’d just read one more as the writing drew me in and entertained me.
‘American Housewife’ would be fabulous for anyone feeling jaded at the end of a working day who wants genuinely original writing that can be read and enjoyed on a commute. American Housewife is hugely satisfying.
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