The Yellow House

The Yellow House 1

by Emily O'Grady

Paperback Publication Date: 24/04/2018

4/5 Rating 1 Reviews

Winner of the 2018 The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award

Even before I knew anything about Granddad Les, Wally and me sometimes dared each other to see how close to the knackery we could get. It was way out in the bottom paddock, and Dad had banned us from going further than the dam. Wally said it was because the whole paddock was haunted. He said he could see ghosts wisping in the grass like sheets blown from the washing line. But even then I knew for sure that was a lie.

Ten-year-old Cub lives with her parents, older brother Cassie, and twin brother Wally on a lonely property bordering an abandoned cattle farm and knackery. Their lives are shadowed by the infamous actions of her Granddad Les in his yellow weatherboard house, just over the fence.

Although Les died twelve years ago, his notoriety has grown in Cub's lifetime and the local community have ostracised the whole family.

When Cub's estranged aunt Helena and cousin Tilly move next door into the yellow house, the secrets the family want to keep buried begin to bubble to the surface. And having been kept in the dark about her grandfather's crimes, Cub is now forced to come to terms with her family's murky history.

The Yellow House is a powerful novel about loyalty and betrayal; about the legacies of violence and the possibilities of redemption.

Contemporary fiction
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Emily O'Grady

Emily O'Grady was born in 1991 in Brisbane. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in, or are forthcoming in Review of Australian Fiction, Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, The Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue Fiction Edition and Award Winning Australian Writing.

In 2012 she won the QUT Undergraduate Writing Prize, and in 2013 she won the QUT Postgraduate Writing Prize. In 2017 she placed second in the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premiers Young Publishers and Writers Award, and was longlisted for the Elizabeth Jolley Prize for Fiction.

She co-edits Stilts Journal, and is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology, where she also works as a Sessional Academic.

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4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • A dark and powerful debut novel

    by on

    “The road was like a liquorice strap, splitting the scrub and the hills in two. On the other side, plum trees sprung from the pale green mounds. Sometimes, in fire season, the mountains were hazy, the smoke from the grass fires curling into the sky in plumes, as if from little campsites on the hills. The sunset sparkled and everything was orange, everything was magic. But not that day. The sky was blue but dull, clouds a colourless blur. Nothing sparkled through the leaves. Nothing was orange.”

    The Yellow House is the first novel by Australian author, Emily O’Grady. It is winner of the 2018 Australian/Vogel Literary Award. Ten-year-old Cub (almost eleven) lives with her family (mum, dad, Cassie and her twin brother, Wally) next to the yellow house. The yellow house is part of an abandoned farm with a knackery past the bottom paddock, the one Wally says is haunted. The yellow house is where Grandad Les used to live before he died, twelve years ago.

    Cub’s only friend is her brother Wally: no-one at school will be her friend. Cub knows it’s because of what Grandad Les did, before they were even born. So when her Aunt Helena from the city to live there with her daughter, Cub is desperate for cousin Tilly to be her friend. “All I knew was that there was no way I was going to tell Tilly about Les. She’d never want to play with us again if she knew what we were really like, who we had inside of us. What kind of person our bones were made from.”

    But Tilly goes to a different school and makes other friends. Meanwhile, Cub’s older brother has made himself a dangerous friend. Cub can feel it, instinctively knows Ian is trouble, but Cassie seems blind, overlooking Ian’s morbid fascination with their grandad’s crimes. When Cub stumbles upon evidence of misdeeds “I wished I could take this out of my brain and bury it in the dirt.”

    O’Grady easily evokes the childhood innocence and the petty grievances that lead to shifting loyalties in early adolescence. With no friend to confide in, Cub conceals her feelings: “I made my face go blank. I could feel the prickles behind my eyes but I concentrated hard and kept them in.” O’Grady also vividly paints the country town with its ostracism of those deemed guilty by way of family ties.

    “Even though I wanted to know as well, I knew this would be one of those things we’d all ignore. Another thing we weren’t allowed to talk about.” This novel clearly demonstrates the futility of attempting to withhold from the relentlessly curious child something which is public knowledge. All this is contained within some beautiful descriptive prose. A dark and powerful debut novel.