Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Visconti House

The Visconti House by Elsbeth Edgar first came to my attention via Charlotte over at Charlotte's library.   How much she liked this book and its description intrigued me so much I bought it to read for the 48 Hour Book Challenge.  It was one of my two favorite reads of the weekend, completely different from the other favorite (Chime).
Synopsis (From Cover):
Laura Horton doesn't quite fit in. She lives in a crumbling mansion that everyone calls "the haunted house", and she has more in common with her parent's eccentric artist friends than with the girls at school.  So when loner Leon Murphy moves in next door, Laura avoids him at first; she doesn't need anything else different or weird in her life.  But when Laura becomes obsessed with uncovering the history of her house-the Visconti House-she finds that Leon understands her need to know what happened to the lonely Italian gentleman who built it. Together, Laura and Leon begin to unearth the mansion's history, a history of elegant dances, thwarted love, and secret rooms. In their quest for the truth, the unlikely pair forms a deep friendship. But will their friendship, sparked by a shared interest in the past, survive in the present?
The Visconti House is a book that is perfect for a certain kind of reader (me).  There is nothing fast paced or action packed about the plot.  It is full of slow discoveries, but it is well paced at the same time.  There is nothing edgy or angsty about the teens and their lives in this book.  Which is good.  Not all teens have those kind of lives (me).  There are teens out there who prefer the company of their families to their peers (me). I would have liked this book no matter what because it is well crafted with a cast of delightful characters.  I love this book because I identified with it. Sometimes painfully.

Laura is a girl who is on the outside of everything.  She doesn't have hair that behaves like everybody else's or know how to dress the right way.  She also has interests and passions completely different from any of her classmates.  She does not get picked on, she is mostly ignored. A girl on the sidelines. She is not comfortable or happy with these circumstances.  She just moved to a new town and begins every school day morning forcing herself out of bed.  Even after making a friend in Leon and immersing herself in the project of the Visconti House she sometimes yearns to be with the other "normal" kids from her school.  There is a point in the novel where Laura is thinking about the upcoming dance, imagining herself making a grand entrance in exactly the right sort of outfit and hair done perfectly.  Then this:
"But that wouldn't happen, of course. She would not wear the right thing, and she would not have anyone to talk to. She would just end up standing in the corner, on her own, being miserable and wishing she had never come. She bit her lip hard. Why did they have to have a school dance? It would all be so much easier if they could just do their tests and finish the year without all the end-of-the-year activities-the sports days, the outings,  and the dance. Particularly the dance..."
Been there. Thought that.  I really found Laura's character to be very genuine in how she bounces back and forth between being who she is and wanting something other.  It is struggle I think most people can identify with in some way.  Laura and Leon do have an inevitable misunderstanding, but it is not in any way dramatic or ridiculous.  It is quiet and realistic.  The resolution that follows it is the same.  And  I absolutely love how Laura just has an epiphany, looks around at where she is and who she is with and says, "I don't like this place.  I'm bored. I would rather be someplace else. Why am I hanging out with these people?"  Again realistic.  You don't need a near tragic event or dramatic scene to come to your senses.  You simply have to think.

So I found this book to be a refreshing and nostalgic experience.

The story of the Visconti House that brings Laura and Leon together is a hauntingly beautiful and melancholy story that is woven into the fabric of Laura's own story. I found myself just as eager for them to unearth the next clue and discover more as they were.

The Visconti House is marketed YA but works for younger readers as well.


  1. I just went to see if she's had any more books since this one--On Orchard Road from 2011 looks promising--
    I like old gardens even more thank I like old houses! her 2013 one looks like it could be fun too (though without the old house...)