Like a House on Fire is a book of short stories by Cate Kennedy. She is an award winning author and this book was shortlisted for the inaugural Stella Prize, longlisted for the ALS Gold Medal 2013, shortlisted for the Kibble Award 2013 and winner of the Steele Rudd Award 2013 Queensland Literary Awards.
I don’t think any book has ever made me want to scream so much. Not because it was in any way bad but, like a frustrated toddler, because I wanted the stories to go on. Each story, some only a few pages long, describes a domestic scene: a teenager at a part time job saving for a holiday, people dealing with the fall out of an accident, family gatherings. Kennedy effortlessly ratchets up the tension then lets it off slowly or the story ends and you are left with the frustration of not knowing how it all works out. If it works out. There are glimpses of a happy ending, suggestions that just maybe, this time, everything will be all right but maybe, probably, not. But no answers.
Her skill is in tying you in knots over a fictional life that you are only briefly dipping into but that resonates so strongly. Perhaps not a book to read when you aren’t feeling strong, but definitely worth putting on the to-be-read list. The best thing is that she has previously written another highly praised book of short stories. That’s on my to-be-read list now. After I’ve recovered from this one.
Publisher: Scribe Publications, scribepublications.com.au also available as an E-book. I have the e-pub version, Kobo, Amazon Kindle and iBookstore listed as well.