The Red House

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I love old houses. When my husband and I bought our first house in St. Louis, it was a big, old, brick rowhouse, built in 1896. I loved the history of the house, the stories that it held in it’s walls. When I walked down the staircase, I would imagine women, holding their long skirts up with one hand, as they made their way down the staircase. So, when I saw, Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England’s Oldest Continuously Lived-in House, I grabbed it, eager to read.

The Red House is the oldest continuously lived in house in New England. It was built by Walter Hatch in 1646. When he died, he left a will saying that the house could never be sold. It was to be passed down from generation to generation. It was, for over 300 years, until 1965 when Sarah Messer’s parents bought the house. The author alternates between telling early history of the house and her own family’s history. She does this only marginally successfully. The historical stories of the house are interesting, her family’s stories are not. Some of the family stories are relevant and relate to the house, but then others seemed to be tossed in for no apparent reason.

At one point, the author describes one of her boyfriends: “He smelled like geraniums, screen doors, metal screws. Once, while walking, he grabbed a handful of apple petals and stuffed them into a tree. “There, this is you,” he said.”

Snippets and memories like this are tossed in amongst the house’s story. It is jarring, and I found myself reading over them quickly, except some of them are just so odd, like the one above, that I tried to figure out the reasoning for including them. And really, unless you’re a celebrity, I really don’t care what your wore to your prom.

I’m giving this 3 stars based on the parts having to do with the house, the rest would get zero to one stars.

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  1. says

    Thanks for the review, I rarely read non-fiction but I’m starting to get more and more into it. Personally, I don’t even care what celebrities wear to prom (although I do kind-of like looking at their before they were famous pictures). I feel like the petals were her way of including some of kind of literary-ness to the book, but there’s a reason why some of us are fiction writers and some of us aren’t ;).

  2. says

    I would have picked it up for the same reason. I will have to read it now, just to get a context. I have always wanted to own an older home… this will probably just seal the deal.

  3. says

    I read this book a few years ago because I too am intrigued by old houses. I was really disappointed with the book but read it until the end, hoping for something (not sure what).

  4. says

    Well, thanks for letting us know, because I HAD been thinking about buying it!
    Phew! Saved by the review!
    I might just go for Dear Fatty instead.. even though it was my second choice.
    (oh to be rich enough to buy every book I want!)

  5. says

    Hey … don’t get me wrong here, I’m ALL about ME ME ME ME ME!!! But I certainly wouldn’t put my personal and boring arse stories in a book about a wonderfully maintained old home. I keep it where it’s supposed to be … in a bleeding chat room!!! DUH.

    Maybe someone else has written a better book about this enchanting old home, eh?


  6. says

    Ooooo, how disappointing. I get so bummed out when I look forward to a book only to discover that it’s a so-so read. How cool, though, to live in a house with a rich history. The house I grew up in, a big old colonial in Indiana, was like that. The one I live in now … no history yet. I’ll have to do something exciting to give it a bit of background for future generations!

  7. says

    What a wonderful concept to have a home that generations would live in. I like older homes. I feel like an odd duck in the neighborhood I live in. But that does not keep me from gardening, baking for the neighbors and playing Uno with a local young one. :)

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