House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild is set in 2008 just as the credit crunch hits and it is that which is the catalyst for much of the action which takes place during the story. It’s a novel about one family and their relationships as well as the relationship which many of the characters also have with a woman who is now dead and her daughter who arrives in the story to change many things.
The Trelawney family have a title and an old house and little else. They specialise in falling out with one another so there are family members who haven’t been home for a long time and who don’t engage much with the family. The family members who live in the decaying and rotting house are asset rich but cash poor and their living conditions are uncomfortable to say the least.
As the story progresses we are introduced to new members of the family and one or two others who have relationships with family members. Each of the characters is slightly exaggerated so the story is about people who are not quite real but who are near enough to it for us to be able to identify with them. There is, among others, a batty aunt who is obsessed with research into insects, a decaying aristocrat who lives in the past, an ineffectual father who loses the family money, an intelligent aunt who works in finance and holds a grudge, a mother figure who is much put upon, a young man who is growing into an unfeeling prig and a villainous figure who wants to get his own back for past perceived hurts.
The story is well constructed and you watch the family relationships break and reform as events unfold. I didn’t really like any of the people, possibly because they didn’t seem real to me and more like caricatures. Because I didn’t like them I didn’t really care what happened to them and thus I wasn’t invested in the story. This is a pity because a large number of people seem to have loved this book and found it very funny. In the end I think what caused me not to engage with the story was that I was being asked to sympathise with people who have a title and large house they did nothing to deserve and who had lost their money through ineptitude – I found it very hard to care about this.