Hunting Houses by Fanny Britt

Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou

Have you ever thought about your first love? Or maybe you’ve never gotten over him/her, despite the fact that you appear to have moved on? Or maybe, like Tessa, you know without a doubt you’d go back to him if you got the chance? (“Do we ever stop wanting what we desired so ardently at the age of twenty?”)

Tessa has a successful marriage, and three children. But Tessa isn’t happy. She questions the decisions she’s made in her life. Her memories and her grief over events of the past have a strong hold on her. So when she runs into her old flame one day, after 17 years, she feels as though the course is set.

… whatever the cost, I need something to relieve the grief I’ve been drunk on for years now. Hasn’t Francis resurfaced to sober me up? Knowing as much, how can I deprive myself?

The one sentence playing over and over in my mind, devastating, inadmissible, inevitable, ‘Jim will suffer, and I’m going to do it anyway’.

Jim, her husband, who she seems to adore. Jim with the big “bear paw” hands, the hands whose “wild desire they inspire in me has never faltered”, his hands that “have never been stingy”.

And yet. It seems to me that death from sorrow is a distinct possibility.

What I think the author does so well in this book is show the doubt  and the questioning and the conflicting thoughts that can run through a person’s mind, making them question themselves and every decision they’ve ever made. Making them susceptible to want to go back and fix things, or try them again. She shows how strong and powerful our memories of something can be, but also how unreliable. Which leads to the questions… How can we be happy if we’re always doubting ourselves and our past decisions? And how do we curb this tendency to put greater weight on the past than it deserves so we can enjoy the life we have now?

As much as this story is about the big question of infidelity and all the things that lead up to it, it also has motherhood moments that I appreciated. And humour to keep it from becoming as depressing as Hausfrau.

These two passages are favourites:

Swimming lessons…

At the pool, the contact between our cold feet and the ceramic tile doesn’t take our mind off the looming need to get undressed. Wearing our coats, our spring boots, our earrings, and, for a few of us, our tailored suits bestowing a semblance of importance, a desire for elegance, in no time we find ourselves confined to badly locked stalls where we wriggle into our bathing suits, relics of our disappointment, while trying not to let our clothes get wet on the floor. At the same time, we must keep our children from opening the door to the stall before we’re ready since the one thing worse than having to wriggle into a swimsuit one April evening is doing so in full view. Elastics snapping on thighs. Straps digging into flesh. Repositioning, leveling of breasts, creating symmetry.

Everyone on their way out the door in the mornings…

The minute the door closes is usually one I cherish. It’s like when you wave a tea towel under a smoke detector and, after all the chaos and running around, the alarm finally stops. You’re left alone in the silence, your hair a mess.

Further Reading:

Review at Pickle Me This:But then Britt is that kind of writer, I think. The writer who makes you feel as though you’re privy to some incredible intimacy, or even that she’s written her book with the most uncanny regard for the contents of your soul. I am sure I’m not the only reader who’s come away from Hunting Houses imagining that Britt and I have some kind of spiritual connection, that in some actual kitchen we could be terrific friends.”

Montreal Review of Books:Her humorous self-deprecation saves what could otherwise skirt melodrama. Britt has a keen eye for unveiling the perceived daily domestic failures and mounting guilt of a woman trying to juggle career, motherhood, marriage, and, of course, the resurrected passion that threatens to destabilize it all.”

Fanny Britt is also a playwright and the author of two successful YA graphic novels, Jane, the Fox & Me and Louis Undercover.


21 thoughts on “Hunting Houses by Fanny Britt

    • Naomi says:

      Me too! There’s a similarly relatable passage of her trying on bathing suits at the store, having left it until the last minute. Ugh.

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’m always confused by stories about one person who can’t decide between two lovers. It seems greedy on the surface. But if both options are genuinely good people, the next step, in my opinion, is to think about which future seems more agreeable. Of course we wonder about the one we said goodbye to, but that’s what Facebook is for! *heads to Facebook*

    • Naomi says:

      I feel like Facebook makes it worse! Facebook makes them still seem so present in your life. Once you’ve decided, better not to be reminded of the one you let go over and over again. Especially because Facebook tends to make people seem way better than they really are!

  2. buriedinprint says:

    I love Jane, the Fox and Me, which makes me think that I’ll love all of her books (even the ones in French which would remain partially out of reach for me), even if that’s not true! The cover of this one always makes me think that I’ve read it already, because it reminds me so much of J.Jill Robinson’s More in Anger, which was also a really emotional story (although different, by the sounds of it). These days, I wonder what makes publishers decide to cover a book with flowers. Not that I don’t LIKE flowers. But…

    • Naomi says:

      I think you’d like this book! And it’s from Quebec… 😉
      I agree with you about the flower-y covers… I’m not as likely to pick one up unless I’ve already heard good things about it. I don’t know why… flowers are pretty… I *do* love covers with trees, though. Once again, I don’t know why…

      • buriedinprint says:

        I believe you. For some reason, your tree comment immediately brought Leanne Shapton’s Native Trees of Canada to mind. Well, there is a tree on it. I like tree books too. 🙂

  3. annelogan17 says:

    Ah yes, I have this book on my shelf, and I heard it discussed on The Next Chapter, so now I’m really intrigued and want to read it! And i love that passage about the tea towel, it’s so true!

  4. The Cue Card says:

    Hmm. I’m curious about the resolution or book’s end of this one. Does she dump everything for her old flame? when often that isn’t the answer eh? I will have to check it out. thx

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