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Book Title: The House of Rumour|
The author of the book: Jake Arnott
The size of the: 933 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.6
Date of issue: July 5th 2012
ISBN 13: 9780340922729
Format files: PDF
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“The House of Rumour” is Jake Arnott’s tour of 20th century curios taking in some of its most defining moments and including some of its most interesting and notorious individuals. Reality and fiction blur as created characters mix with real people, and events have a habit of connecting to other events with tenuous links – “jonbar points”, to use sci-fi vernacular.
A classified paper detailing a secret government operation in World War 2 to use black magic and astrology to lure Hitler’s second in command, Rudolf Hess, to leave Germany for Scotland is stolen by a transvestite prostitute in late 80s England from a retired spymaster. From there Arnott sends the reader back to the dark year of 1941 where the war was firmly in favour of the Nazis and a young Ian Fleming, commander in Naval Intelligence, utilised his contacts to arrange a meeting with Aleister Crowley, once known as “the wickedest man in the world”.
Crowley agrees to Fleming’s bizarre plan (or is this disinformation?) to hold magical gatherings to lure Hess to Britain, sending word to his cult centre in California to do the same. And so on to California where we meet a young (fictional) author, Larry Zagorski, who is introduced to Robert Heinlein and his Manana Society where he meets L Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons. I won’t go into the various strands of the story because there are too many to list but they include the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple, UFO conspiracies, and culminating in space with the Voyager 1 probe.
Jake Arnott has written some tremendous books so far in his career but “The House of Rumour” is his best yet and definitely his most ambitious. It is structured in the style of tarot cards with 21 chapters each named after a face card (“The Hanged Man”, “The Hierophant”, “The Female Pope”, etc.) with each chapter told from the perspective of the rich and varied cast of characters.
It’s a beautifully written novel full of fascinating people and events. I loved the parts in the 40s highlighting the Golden Age of science fiction and reading about the exploits of Jack Parsons (a rocket scientist who would die in mysterious circumstances) and L Ron Hubbard (who would go on to found the controversial religion Scientology), Arnott captures the spirit of the age showing the naivety and excitement of the times. The communes and free love read like the 60s but this was the 40s, a time that wasn’t as innocent as some would make out.
Across the pond, the Ian Fleming chapters were my favourite. You get a great sense of the man he was and how frustrated he was that he wasn’t the suave, manly character he wanted to be. In a particularly funny section he saves a Moneypenny-like colleague from an assassin in a bungling way before sitting awkwardly with her afterward, cursing that he hadn’t the courage to take her to bed immediately after killing the assassin. He thinks that one day, with words, he will make this right.
Years later after his Bond novels have made him rich and famous, he gives a clue as to the meaning of this novel. “The House of Rumour?” “At the centre of the world where everything can be seen is a tower of sounding bronze that hums and echoes, repeating all it hears, mixing truth with fiction.” (p.244). The House of Rumour is deception and counter-intelligence - disinformation fed to the enemy. And that’s what this book is full of: deception. A transvetite who looks like a woman but is a man; a troubled female David Bowie groupie becomes a man; a writer whose life influenced his fiction (Fleming) and a writer whose fiction influenced his life (Hubbard); a prescient novel called “Swastika Night” allegedly written by a man is revealed to have been written by a woman (this is real novel); and a fictional writer, Zagorski, writes a novel with each chapter named after a face card in the tarot...
The novel talks about utopias and dystopias and is full of examples: the Cuban Revolution which tried to create a socialist paradise before becoming a bankrupt third world country; Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple which promised paradise on earth but ended in mass suicide. Each character is looking for truth in their own way - but what is true in this twisting hall of mirrors story?
There is so much about this novel I enjoyed but this review is already too long to talk about them. I will say that a number of reviews have said this novel has no plot as if this is a critique against it; I agree that the book has no plot but disagree that this is a bad thing. When a novel is this entertaining, where each chapter takes you into another fascinating life, bringing colour to episodes in history previously unexplored (where else will you get such a description of what Hess must have felt inside the cockpit of the plane as he prepared to parachute out over the Scottish Highlands?), who cares that there’s no plot? Does a novel always have to have a plot to be considered “good”? I think “The House of Rumour” proves resoundingly that it doesn’t.
“The House of Rumour” is a wildly ambitious, perfectly executed novel full of secrets, conspiracies, anecdotes featuring the occult, and a veritable cast of anti-heroes and oddballs that spans both space and time, layering the novel in meaning and dead-ends. It’s a novel that’s thrilling to read but also contains so much that it invites repeated readings and no guarantees that there are answers to it at the end. Jake Arnott has created in “The House of Rumour” a mesmerising, meditative, and vexing story whose secrets always seem within reach to the reader - but always just out of reach too. It’s an amazing accomplishment and a masterpiece - “The House of Rumour” is definitely my favourite novel of 2012. Bravo, Mr Arnott!
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Read information about the authorJake Arnott is a British novelist, author of The Long Firm and four other novels. In 2005 Arnott was ranked one of Britain's 100 most influential gay and lesbian people; but since 2005 he has been in a relationship with the formerly lesbian writer and novelist, Stephanie Theobald. In May 2001 he was included in a list of the fifty most influential gay men in Britain, it was declared that he is widely regarded as one of Britain's most promising novelists.
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