The houses (or homes) we live in are such an important part of who we are, whether or not we actually like them. And houses can have different personalities. They are not just the stage upon which the acts of our lives are played out, but perhaps, at times they can be characters in their own right.
In my new book, Our House, the house itself is just such a character. It talks, groans, grumbles, sings and sighs. It also locks people in or out from time to time. It has gloomy, cold parts and warm, comfortable parts. The main character, Chloe, is unsure about the house at first, but as time goes on she becomes to understand the house is a part of her family, for better or worse.
In assembling this list, I’ve tried to choose houses which themselves seem to have a personality which affects the story.
1. The Strawberry Villa: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Actually one of two villas Durrell lives in on Corfu. The description of the house and the surrounding countryside is an essential ingredient in Durrell’s writing. The villa is the stage for most of the family dramas, as well as a laboratory and zoo for Durrell’s fascination with animals, both dead and alive. The scene in which Leslie awakens to a terrible smell and comes out to find Gerry “disembowelling Moby Dick on the veranda,” is one of the funniest in literature.
2. Manderley: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Manderley represents so much more than just a house in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. It represents wealth and success, a sense of seclusion and protection. And yet, the house has a dark side, harbouring terrible secrets, a violent history and an uncertain future.
3. Wuthering Heights: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A dark, bleak house described as though it was a person. Mirroring Heathcliff’s dark, forbidding character, the house sits and sulks, at once exposed and yet hidden from view of Thrushcross Hall, its grander, more prepossessing neighbour.
4. Castle Dracula: Dracula by Bram Stoker
The iconic setting for the defining Gothic novel. Castle Dracula has been reproduced, re-imagined and depicted countless times in literature and film. I feel Dracula would not have been quite the story it was if it had been set in a terraced house in Bermondsey.
5. The House at Pooh Corner: The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
The house that Piglet and Pooh build for their friend Eeyore is more than the sum of its parts. It represents friendship, togetherness and loyalty and has such an important role that the book itself is named for it. It’s not the only house in the book either. Let’s not forget the Wolery, Owl’s new home, as found by Eeyore himself. Ultimately, the Pooh stories are all about finding one’s sense of place.
6. Villa Villekulla: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
What would Pippi be without her crazy house? Home to her monkey and horse and as unconventional as she is. The house is plonked right in the middle of a well-to-do, properly-mannered suburb, mixing it up. Didn’t we all want a neighbour like Pippi when we were little?
7. The Gingerbread House: Hansel and Gretel by Brothers Grimm
Possibly the most well-known house in literature. The house is a trap, luring children whether greedy or desperate. It is a metaphor for those unscrupulous folk out there who offer temptations in order to take advantage, the literary equivalent of a Nigerian email scam. The house is effectively an extension of the witch herself. All I can say is beware, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
8. 221b Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan-Doyle
What more can be said about this house (or apartment if we’re to be picky) that hasn’t been said before? The house is an essential component of Conan-Doyle’s stories. The quintessential bachelor’s apartment and a reflection of the London of the 1880s, the house is packed with a bewildering variety of Holmes’ oddities and accoutrements. The apartment is his mind palace, complete with his stored knowledge and experience.
9. Kirrin Cottage. The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton
The sixth member of the Famous Five, if that makes any sense. Kirrin Cottage is many things, not just a plot device to bring the children together for extended periods, it is sanctuary. It has hidden nooks and corners, nearby smuggler’s caves, a beach, a cove and an island as well as a secret passage heading to endless adventure.
10. Unnamed cottage. Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery
Ross Montgomery’s sweet, funny and slightly bonkers novel features an unnamed cottage on a remote Scottish island. The isolation of the cottage reflects the emotional distance between the family members who live in it. Later, the house itself becomes an integral part of the story when it is reproduced on top of a gigantic alien sea-creature worshipped by a bobble-hat wearing cult...oh look it’s too hard to explain. Just read the book and you’ll see what I mean.
— Tom Easton is an author of fiction for all ages who has published books under a number of different pseudonyms as well as his own name. His teen novel Boys Don’t Knit (Hot Key Books) was nominated for the Cilip Carnegie Medal. Our House is the first in a younger, funny, family-oriented set of stories for Piccadilly Press. guardian.co.uk (c) Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2016