Review: The House that Alice Built by Chris Penhall

The House that Alice Built: The perfect feel-good summer read set in sunny Portugal by [Penhall, Chris]

Home is where the heart is …
Alice Dorothy Matthews is sensible. Whilst her best friend Kathy is living it up in Portugal and her insufferable ex Adam is travelling the world, Alice is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she has put her heart and soul into renovating.
But then a postcard from Buenos Aires turns Alice’s life upside down. One very unsensible decision later and she is in Cascais, Portugal, and so begins her lesson in ‘going with the flow’; a lesson that sees her cat-sitting, paddle boarding, dancing on top of bars and rediscovering her artistic talents.  But perhaps the most important part of the lesson for Alice is that you don’t always need a house to be at home.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Purchase          Rating: 4/5 stars

In the wake of her boyfriend’s “disappearance,” Alice Matthews has devoted her time and energy to two things, her work and her home renovations.  In the time her boyfriend has been traipsing around the world – the jerk sends postcards! – Alice has invested time, energy, funds, and more than a little love into the home they once shared.  Alice’s home is her sanctuary and now her rat bastard of an ex wants to sell the house so he can invest in his new girlfriend and their new business venture.  

To Alice’s way of thinking, her rotten ex owns precisely one toilet in the entirety of “their” house!  To Alice’s way of thinking, if her ex wants to sell “their” house out from under her, he’s going to have to do it on her terms and her terms include jetting off to Portugal to be both off the grid and off his greedy radar.  Portugal is just the thing Alice needs and with a dear friend already in country, Alice is sure to find the solution to all her problems.  Yes, in Portugal, Alice will figure out how to deal with her ex, what to do about his stupid house-selling proposal, and where she sees herself in both the near and distant future.

Portugal . . . .

Cascais, Portugal is a haven, a true paradise just off the beaten path.  From the moment she sets foot in Cascais, Alice feels somewhat relieved; at least her ex will never think to look for her here.  With determination in her blood, Alice sets out to enjoy paradise, to relax, and know that the universe is going to magically solve all her problems and bring her a sense of balance and serenity she has not known in years.  There’s only one LARGE problem with Alice’s grand plan, Alice Matthews just isn’t built that way and no matter how much she wants to ignore her real life and her problems, they don’t just go away because you’re in paradise.

For weeks, Alice vacillates between burgeoning relaxation and stark fear over the future.  Alice finds moments of solace and even peace when she begins to reboot and remember who she was before her dirty, rotten ex and the house, and before it was her sole financial responsibility.  In those moments, Alice is creative and crafty and happy.  In those moments, Alice allows herself to be free, to experience new friendships, to have new adventures, and to open herself up once again to the possibility of love.  In those moments, Alice can almost picture a future in which she is truly happy and that is worth all the worry, all the heartache, and all the considerable drama.

The Bottom Line:  I both read and listened to this book, and both times I found it to be a wonderful little diversion of a story.  Alice Matthews is one of those characters you just can’t help but like.  Alice is trying to do the right thing, but circumstances and life have thrown her so many curve balls that her only option is to run away.  While this may seem silly and immature, Alice is also a grown and mature woman who knows, ultimately, running away isn’t the answer to anything, but the time away may help her find some answers.  Aside from truly liking Alice, I also found the setting to be wonderfully welcoming and suitable for Alice’s little adventure.  From the small-town environment to the lush gardens, water views, and quirky characters, Cascais, Portugal is exactly what Alice needed to unravel the tangle of her life.  I found the combination of characters and setting to be quite perfect and perfectly appropriate.  My only complaint – and it’s not much of a complaint at all, really – is that I would have liked a bit more of a firm ending by way of a proper epilogue.  Oh, we know Alice is on her way to a well-deserved HEA, but I wanted a bit more as far as tying up the last few loose ends.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I really, really, really wanted to know that Alice was able to stick it to her rat bastard ex and his pretentious new girlfriend 😊 In all, a fine read from Chris Penhall in both written and audio format!

Amazon| Audible

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