Saturday, September 08, 2007

Book Review: "Red House"

Sarah Messer's Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England's Oldest Continuously Lived-In House, is, oddly enough, just as described in the subtitle. Messer tells two stories with this book: the history of the house in question (in Marshfield, MA) and its longtime occupants - multiple generations of the Hatch family - and also a personal narrative of her experiences growing up in the house after her father purchased it from the Hatches.

Both parts have fascinating elements, and it's clear that Messer has researched the historical sections fairly well (there are delightfully detailed notes for some portions, even if they are unmarked in the text and all jumbled together at the back). I found the historical sections and the chapters dealing with the preservation/documentation process more interesting than the personal reminiscences, but I'm sure others would be inclined to think precisely the opposite. If you're a fan of autobiographical musings I'm sure those bits would be enjoyable.

There was a bit too much speculation for my comfort, which I wouldn't have minded if Messer had made it clear in the text rather than relegating many of her leaps to the notes. Overall, though, not a bad casual read.