A Bird in the House


Author: Margaret Laurence

Published: 1970

About A Bird in the House: Eight connected short stories, featuring Vanessa MacLeod and set in Manawaka, Manitoba.

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  1. The Sound of the Singing
  2. To Set Our House in Order
  3. Mask of the Bear
  4. A Bird in the House
  5. The Loons
  6. Horses of the Night
  7. The Half-Husky
  8. Jericho's Brick Battlements

Review of A Bird in the House

Vanessa MacLeod lives in Manawaka, Manitoba with her parents. Her story, as covered by this book, starts and ends with her grandparents' house.

That house in Manawaka is the one which, more than any other, I carry with me. Known to the rest of the town as "the old Connor place" and to the family as the Brick House, it was plain as the winter turnips in its root cellar, sparsely windowed as some crusader's embattled fortress in a heathen wilderness, its rooms in a perpetual gloom except in the brief height of summer. Many other brick structures had existed in Manawaka for as much as half a century, but at the time when my grandfather built his house, part dwelling place and part massive monument, it had been the first of its kind.

...from "The Sound of the Singing", page 1

In the first story, Vanessa is ten years old and the book ends when she is around forty. The stories are a mix of young Vanessa's experiences and adult Vanessa's interpretation of them.

I've been having a lot of trouble writing a review of this book and I'm not sure why. I thought Vanessa was interesting and observant and Laurence did a great job of showing us the world through her eyes. I thought there was something moving about each of the stories and I can't even pick a favourite. I thought the book as a whole was remarkable and I really liked it. Maybe that was the problem: I liked it too much to be objective.

I almost set this book aside when I realized it was short stories. I like short stories and I do read them but they don't fit all that well with the way I read and with the varying amounts of time I have available. A Bird in the House, however, read like a novel and I'm very glad I decided to give it a chance.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath, from the New Canadian Library edition, on 29 June 2008.

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Added 29 June 2008.
Updated 23 August 2013.