Review: The House of Special Purpose

Most everyone knows how A Reader's Respite feels about John Boyne.  If we were inclined to stalk an author in order to read even his grocery list, Boyne would probably be that author.  

So it pains us to report how absolutely meh we felt after reading The House of Special Purpose.  Perhaps it was the subject matter: he takes us to revolutionary Russia, a veritable feast of possibilities, and gives us the old, stale Anastasia thing again?  We had a hard time accepting this.  In fact, we kept hoping - right up until the very last page - that it really wasn't the old Anastasia thing again and Boyne was going to pull a rabbit out of his hat and wow us in that special way he has.  Alas, that did not happen.

Okay, so we are trying to get over it.  Because really, Boyne could write about any subject and his lyrical phrasing and subtle wit would make it a lovely experience.  And so it is with The House of Special Purpose. His pacing is impeccable and every word (except the word Anastasia, that is) is to be savored and enjoyed.  

The alternation of time and place is a Boyne specialty and in this novel, he absolutely excels with this technique.  Transitioning between 1918 Russia, 1920s Paris, and 1930s London gives the novel a full, rich feel to it.  Skipping between time and place allows the reader to fully understand the characters and experience a lifetime of joy and tragedy along with them...they become, in effect, quite three-dimensional.

Reading a Boyne novel is never a waste of time.  Yes, we do recommend this.  If you can get over the Anastasia thing, that is.

Title:  The House of Special Purpose
Author:  John Boyne
Publisher: Other Press (Paperback Reprint Edition)
Pages:  480
Source:  Library Copy (surprise)

Rating:  4 Stars - we were tempted to knock off a star for the Anastasia thing, but well, it's John Boyne.


  1. Dare I admit that I haven't read any Boyne? Not even Striped Pajamas.

  2. Oh, too bad about the Anastasia thing! Yuck! Maybe his grocery list this month was better!

  3. I haven't read many books about the Anastasia thing so that probably wouldn't bother me as much as it did you.

  4. Pathologically LiterateJune 15, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I was obsessed with Anastasia when I was a little girl - from the first time I read about her, it just haunted me (I may or may not have been a dramatic child). I might not mind that part of this book...


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