“Book Review: The Landlord of Hummingbird House”
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
An honest and heartfelt novel of personal connection, layer by layer
Jane Harvey’s The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a story of the quiet yet biting sense of imposter syndrome. This contemporary novel is cozy and warm while addressing real discomforts, regrets, and traumas.
Harvey’s writing is descriptive as opposed to prescriptive, capturing people in all their simplicity and depth without being moralizing. It unravels outward appearances, suggesting that immediate perceptions may prevent, or at least delay, meaningful connection.
“It wasn’t any fear of flirting or romance that had hit her, rather the lack of another half to be the funny one, or answer questions when she was stuck. She always thought that it was much easier to socialize as half of a couple.”
After a messy end to a long-term relationship, April moves into Hummingbird House, a Georgian-style building that houses an assortment of jovial and offbeat tenants who have all taken to each other like a second family. She is guided to her new apartment by Dai, a brooding, brusque man, whom she assumes to be the landlord.
But an awkward interaction with Dai leaves April feeling embarrassed. This feeling is doubled when she fumbles with transporting her belongings into her new home and Paul, her new neighbor, has to help her. Tackling single life as an adult at the age of thirty-two and comparing herself to her supposedly well-put-together sister Kelly, April often finds herself feeling a sense of imposter syndrome at being an adult.
“‘That’s just the stale alcohol talking…Hasn’t anyone told you that hangovers come hand in hand with imposter syndrome and existential dread once you’re over the age of thirty?’”
As the story progresses, April’s general humiliation around her neighbors starts to
dissipate as she learns more about their inner lives and as she becomes more self-confident despite her break up.
Readers dispel their own sense of awkwardness as they come to sympathize with April and read from the third person perspectives of Paul and Dai as well.
Though April initially perceives Paul as uptight and plain, we soon discover alongside April that he is working through his own failed relationships and personal struggles. Similarly, though Dai appears to be brusque and exceptionally moody at times, we learn that this is not without reason.
“Grief becomes a part of us, it stays with us, inside, and we change. We accommodate it, and grow around it.”
Though the novel often focuses on uncomfortable or traumatic experiences, the sense of community shared under the roof of The Hummingbird House gives off an aura of coziness and warmth. The reader can almost smell the sweet cake in the air when April is baking with her niece and Paul; one can almost feel the heat radiating from the boiling pot of pasta, taste the fresh market produce purchased earlier that day. Readers will be begging for more of Harvey’s descriptive storytelling.
April’s character is well-developed and nuanced. Her story is well worth diving into, but Paul and Dai’s complexities and trauma can sometimes come off as more to serve April’s character development than to offer something tangible and real of their own.
“‘Oh, I don’t mind necessary mess. You can’t expect to have kids around without a few splashes and accidents. And I can cope with other people’s mess. I just choose to live my own life differently.’”
From heartbreakingly empathetic characters to cozy, descriptive settings, The Landlord of Hummingbird House will tingle your senses and stir up your sympathy. This contemporary novel is a great gloomy day, warm-blankets read.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction
Print Length: 214 pages
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