Gibbin House is kind of like a house for misfit toys. Stately Gibbin House is located outside of London, and during World War II it became a place of refuge. The refugees were mostly intellectuals, artists and political dissidents fleeing from the Nazis. (Though most of them were fleeing a little late in the war, not in the beginning). Many men and women came and went during the war, but in 1949 when our story begins there are only 4 residents left.
Professor Alfred is the head of house. He was the one who helped the steady stream of people I'm and out during the war. The house is owned by his friend. He keep the peace around the house and between the somewhat odd assortment of residents.I'm trying to think of the right word for Emil, one of the house residence. The best I can come up with is that he's a bit of a scallywag. He fled Berlin, and is a bit of a man about town working for a newspaper as a reviewer/interviewer. He sleeps late, drinks a bit too much and doesn't seem to care much about others feelings. Jan is a teacher of natural history at a boys school. (Do not call him a botanist-it upsets him...even though he basically a botanist.) He is socially awkward, has a tendency to ramble on about his subjects of choice, and has a weird reddish quality on his face. Theo is our last resident and most important. He sits in the house's study by himself translating obscure texts for a local college. He didn't flee the continent for political reasons but he isn't super forthcoming for his real reasons for his flight. When he isn't translating he's working on his novel. These men are all pretty set in their ways and rotate kind of in their own little orbits, being near each other but not interacting more than they have to. Then one day a new planet gets introduced into their solar system. (Did I take that metaphor too far? It's an apt metaphor, just accept it.)
One day Alfred brings home Anka. Anka is about 20 and has recently come from Vienna where she lived with her mother. They lived (and her mother still does) in an attic above some of their family members who have "generously" taken them in. One of them includes August, Anka's lecherous uncle who "accidentally" barges in on Anka and her mother in the washroom all the time. After an ugly incident in the attic Anka is sent to Gibbin House, because Alfred and her mother are friends from the pre-war days. Anka is greeted with a mix of curiosity, indifference, and a little bit of skepticism. Theo especially is worried about what her presence will mean, mostly I think he is worried that she was going to come in and be flirty and demanding and upset the weird balance that the house has struck. He shouldn't have worried. Alfred takes Anka around London and tries to make her feel like London is her home, Jan helps her in the garden and she slowly starts to settle in. Anka also has a unique attribute that makes getting to know her new housemates a little more difficult. (Which took me a long time to figure out, so I'm not going to tell you what it is!)
All of the house members have secrets, and Alfred and Theo have a painful personal history that sets them at odds. Secrets begin to come out about heartbreak, war, betrayal, and lies. What does it mean for the delicate balance that has been struck between these sad men and their quiet new housemate? The book is told from the perspectives with Anka and Theo, and then there are small sections of Theo's (autobiographical, hint hint) novel throughout as well.
I liked this book. It was a book set in Europe in the 40s/50s that wasn't all about the horrors of war, but people just trying to go about their lives. It seems like those books are kind of rare! I liked that when the book was told from Anka or Theo's perspective it had one font, but when their were pieces of Theo's novel it had a subtly different font to help you keep them straight. (It sounds like a silly thing to like, but I just finished another book with flashbacks and flashforwards and I was thoroughly confused. Lots of rereading and no one has time for that!) At first I thought Anka was going to be a little high maintenance/needy for my taste but the more that I learned about her and her story the more understanding of her character I became. I also liked how the characters all related to each other and how it changed throughout the story as well. 3.5 out of 5 stars from this gal.
Carola Perla was born in 1977 in Timisoara, Romania, to parents of Peruvian and
German-Romanian heritage. She spent her early childhood in Lima and Munich,
before moving with her family to the United States.
She holds degrees in German Literature and Art History from Florida State
University. Since 2001 she has been a resident of Miami Beach, where she
co-founded an international public relations firm and worked as a freelance
journalist. Her recent projects include the launch of the Atelier 1022 Art Gallery in
Wynwood. Gibbin House is her first novel.
During the Second World War, a Hampstead villa named Gibbin House was a refuge
for artists and intellectuals fleeing the continent. But nearly five years later, this
former beacon of hope has become a prison for the four men who remain exiled
there. The mysterious arrival from Vienna of Anka Pietraru - a young woman unable
to voice the unbearable secret of a mother's sacrifice - will test the men's
perceptions of love and loss. And as Anka unearths old grievances within Gibbin
House, its residents will be forced to decide if they have the strength to begin living
again or if it is simply too late.
Author: Carola Perla
Format: eBook and Paperback
Publication Date: September 21, 2011
The giveaway for Gibbin House by Carola Perla is incredible! There will be a total of
three winners; one grand prize winner and two additional winners.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive:
1. A signed copy of Gibbin House
2. 'Vienna Romance' stationary by ATELIER 1022 Company
3. Limited edition reproduction Stereocard of Trafalgar Square, London - this
Edwardian Era 3-D photograph, dated 1901, served as the novel's cover art
4. Viewing lorgnette
5. Collector's edition prologue 'letter'
Two additional winners will receive:
A signed copy of Gibbin House
Isn't that an awesome giveaway? I want all of that. Go HERE to enter!