Nestled among cherry trees in a picturesque country garden, the Gingerbread House resembles an illustration from an old-world storybook. But beware! For in the fairytale, that’s where the witch lives …
Not really. The Gingerbread House is nothing like the one in the fairytale and the witch is a grandmother suffering from dementia.
When Tess is made redundant from her job as an advertising copywriter, she goes to the Gingerbread House as it seems like the perfect place to work on a novel. But caring for her mother-in-law Eleanor is harder than she imagined.
The story is narrated by Eleanor’s granddaughter, fourteen year old Katia. Katia doesn’t talk but she’s an excellent listener and observer. She loves books and stories and it is she who named the house. As Tess starts to struggle with the isolation and the harsh reality of being a full-time carer, Katia is forced to watch helplessly.
This really hit a nerve with me. My grandmother suffers from dementia too. While it hurts that she doesn’t always remember me, the most emotional moment for me was when I realised that she knew fully well what was happening. “There’s something wrong in my head”, she told me. Like Eleanor, she has good moments and bad moments and it’s the bad ones that are positively draining.
There’s no sugarcoating, it’s highly realistic and believable and you will come away with nothing but the utmost admiration for those that are full-time carers.
The Gingerbread House is a deeply moving story. Heartbreaking and occasionally also quite funny. Katia is a fabulous narrator and her father often relies on dark humour to lift his wife’s spirits. There’s also a twist I didn’t see coming it all. At the end of the book, I was left with a massive lump in my throat.
Many thanks to Black & White Publishing and Netgalley for my copy which I chose to review.
The Gingerbread House is out now.