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The House of Broken Bricks: A Novel

The House of Broken Bricks: A Novel

Fiona Williams

Fiction - 352 pages

Every marriage has its phases. While we first meet Tess in the fall, her relationship with Richard is in the midst of a bitterly frigid winter. Their union might not see the brilliant light of April after such a difficult winter.

About the writer (2024)

Fiona Williams graduated with honors from Bath Spa University's MA program in creative writing and the University of Westminster's BSc (Hons) program in biological sciences. She moved to the Somerset Levels with her family after growing up in South East London, and a lot of her work is about the diversity of rural areas and the connections between place and identity. You may see Fiona discuss the renowned literary fiction Bridport Prize.


The House of Broken Bricks tracks the stages of a family's interactions with themselves and one another, reading like a heart-healthy almanac. Earthy and rich, it's one of those books that needs to be read quietly so that you can appreciate the complex nature that is inside each of us. 

A deft, poignant, and endearing portrayal of familial love, sorrow, and the potential for hope. 

It was powerful and shocking, and it immersed me in a whole new world. Characters I actually care about and a compelling storyline make this the best form of storytelling. 

A fully immersive experience awaits you in the House of Broken Bricks. Everything was visible, tasted, and felt by me.

The subject is so courageous and nuanced, and the storytelling is so tense, heartbreaking, and unexpected. 

We may gradually put together the events that have befallen a family shattered by grief in this sumptuous debut novel set in the English countryside thanks to the shifting points of view. Williams uses vivid prose, and the book's brief chapters will have you turning the pages.

The writing is exquisitely expressive. The work has a raw immediacy to it, as it is written in the present tense, giving the impression that everything is happening right now. This heightens the poignancy of the story. The book is full with warm, intimate details about the natural world and some amazing descriptions. Williams intricately muddies the definitions of race, inheritance, territory, and belonging, through her characters, but also with the language which she uses it’s a novel which will stay with you long after you have read it.

The House of Broken Bricks is a beautifully written, multi-layered tale that revolves around the strong, enduring ties that keep our families together and help us through life's storms. 

The House of Broken Bricks is a fantastic debut that is daring in its deep truths about loss and love in us and the promise of sunshine on even the darkest days. I've lost count of the amount of perfectly constructed words that I wanted to steal.

Confident and skillful... poignant and lyrical. Perplexed

Over view 

The Hembry family, a four-member household in a rural area just a short drive from London, resides in the south of England. The city is close enough that Tess, who is married to Richard and has children named Sonny and Max, can still sense the attraction of her own mother's Lewisham home.

Although Tess's mother is Jamaican, she was raised on the flavor of plantains and Scotch bonnet peppers, which are difficult to find in the area where she currently resides. It's Richard's family home, and Tess believes that she always stands out because she's the only black person there.

The teenage boys are her "rainbow twins," with Max looking like his father and Sonny having dark eyes and curly hair, respectively. People wonder if Sonny is being fostered or if he is simply a friend visiting when he is out and about in the town with his father. Dad shrugs it off with a laugh. He tells me that my great-great-grandparents are buried in the churchyard when I get upset. Old English bones softening in the chilly, black ground.

The story of Fiona Williams's debut is told in the alternating voices of various family members, starting in the fall and concluding in the summer. There is a rift in this family that is evident right away. "We have to stop acting like everything is normal," Richard adds. in the opening pages of the book. Tess charges him of being indifferent and merely liking the plants, which provide him with a living and a haven. 

The reader is still unaware of the cause of their grief. The two boys are trapped in their own world, rejected by their parents and communities, mindless prejudice that is sometimes horribly well-intentioned, and abuse from children and even adults. It takes a while to reveal the precise location of the break, maybe a little too slowly at first because the first third of the book drags at points. However, each personal loss is deftly interwoven with a broader sense of displacement, which the reader experiences most keenly when Tess returns to London and senses the attraction of the Jamaican culture from whence she been taken out. Tess's favorite tea towel is a "colorful map of Jamaica that's all covered with stains," demonstrating Williams' keen eye. Williams, a professional biologist, also does a beautiful job of capturing the English landscape. "Please come. Come on, let's dash across the meadow and scramble over the fallen ash, which is dieback-prone and fragile. Look, the field maple is starting to show tender buds. Take care not to damage the little purple cyclamen or the coltsfoot.

Unfortunately, because the plot's resolution depends on Richard's actions, he is the book's weakest character. Though on the surface heartwarming, the resolve seems a little mechanical, since we never really get a glimpse of his innermost thoughts. An elderly neighbor explains that houses made of shattered bricks are nevertheless strong, which is a slightly over-emphatic form of exposition. The same might be said of how we find out where the novel gets its title. Nevertheless, this moving novel from a gifted new author will cheer you up on a frigid new year.

Fiona Williams, The House of Broken Bricks, Faber & Faber, £14.99, 400 pages