Fiction – Kindle Edition; And other stories; 242 pages; 2021
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Tice Cin’s Guarding the house, But it did not really work for me. I just could not deal with the story, nor with the characters.
The article claims that these are three generations of a Turkish family living in north London who import heroin hidden in cabbages to the UK.
It features a cast of characters that is so vast that it’s hard to keep track of who is who. This is despite the fact that there is a Characters At the front of the book. (I read it on Kindle, and unlike a physical book, it’s almost impossible to flip back to the front to look up names while you read, which ruins the experience.)
This narrative is divided into dozens and dozens of chapters, most of them several pages long, and each is told from the point of view of a different character. Once I realized that a pretext, for example, is the mother, brave enough to dive into the illegal import business, until the episode ends and a new point of view is presented from the point of view of another character. From the beginning, the plot line felt disjointed.
The time frames also bounce back and forth, which usually wouldn’t have bothered me, but I struggled to keep track of all the characters so my poorly overloaded poor mind couldn’t even cope with the changes in chronology.
It started to feel like I was reading something that was influenced by our busy lives on the internet, moving from one social media platform to another, following snippets of conversations and news from countless sources, and yet, for me, that style and structure. Felt too chaotic to make sense.
However, the characters are well painted (if occasionally difficult to distinguish from each other) and the scenery and insights into the former Turkish culture are exemplary. The writing is lyrical, original, wise. Sublime songs are also dotted throughout the text.
Some of the episodes, especially those with a lot of dialogues, are arranged like theater scripts, minus the directions but clearly describe who is saying what, fun to read.
Ali: Funny. So we have three things we are going to do. I’re sending your gear to Jersey, the rest we’ll sell to this Jamaican dealer I know – all very well down the street – and then I’re sending leftovers to some upscale homes near Moswell Hill or something. Full of university staff. You do not want everything to move to one place if you want it to be quiet.
Ali: Yes. Taking things to Jersey is worth three times as much. Small bags worth three thousand are sold for seven thousand. Once you put someone on board, the hundred miles are no problem. There are about a hundred users in the place, so the police know when there are things on the island. However, you can scare them with contempt. Their prisons are full of islanders.
Doe: Can’t they put more than a hundred in one of their prisons?
Ali: Something like that.
There are many Turkish words and expressions, all of which are also translated in the text, which adds to the flavor of the novel. And there is an atmosphere of dark contemplation that soaks up the story, one that drips an underground stream of violence and often blatant misogyny.
Keeping the house It’s not exactly a “fun” read, but structurally the author does interesting experimental things and obviously has a lot of talent. This is the kind of work you would expect to see nominated for a Goldsmith Award, for example.
Maybe add it to your list if you are looking for something challenging and different or if you are well acquainted with this part of North London. For me, I think maybe that was the case of the right book but at the wrong time …