Celia Rees

The Wish House

The Wish House cover


Summer, 1976: Life-changing, heartbreaking, unforgettable. Every year, Richard has taken the same holiday with his parents, in the same part of Wales, meeting up with the same people. But this summer, everything is about to change. With his childhood friend grown-up and working, a bored Richard stumbles upon the occupants of The Wish House, who casually smoke dope on the beach and sunbathe naked. He falls under the influence of Jay Dalton, a famous artist, and his muse / daughter Clio, becoming a subject of Jay’s paintings and of Clio’s enchantment. Stripped of his innocence, Richard is blind to the dark truths of the Daltons’ world with which he is quickly becoming involved. Jay’s artistic passion is burning out of control. For the first time in his life, Richard faces betrayal, distrust and deceit – how will he survive the summer at The Wish House unscathed?

Shortlisted for the Tir na n-Og Award

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Celia’s comments about this book

The Wish House is very different from Witch Child, Sorceress and Pirates! It is a contemporary novel and has a boy as the main character.

I can’t draw, or paint, but I’m very interested in art and the way that artists work and often visit art galleries for inspiration. I’ve explored this fascination in The Wish House.

We all remember times when certain places, certain people came together to make something special, something that we will never, ever, forget. I began to think about this, and to imagine a boy, call him Richard, at the beginning of a particular summer. I had a house in mind, call it the Wish House, and a family very unlike his own, or anyone else that he has ever met. Suddenly they were there, waiting for him: beautiful, enchanting, wild child Clio, exotic Lucia, Joe, the dope smoking brother and Jay, the powerful, enigmatic artist controlling them all like some mythic magician. I was in South Wales and that seemed the perfect setting for this fateful meeting which will bring on a whole set of new experiences: first love, first sex, first death. It is a time that will change Richard, and those he encounters, forever…

Reviews of The Wish House

The Independent 01/04/05
‘Tricked out to look like an exhibition catalogue, this is good story-telling from an increasingly impressive author.’

Times Educational Supplement 01/04/05
‘One of the best features of this involving and engrossing novel is the way Rees describes Jay’s paintings.  We can see them in our mind’s eye as though they were in front of us.  She is also very good at drawing us into the inner-most thoughts of her young characters, and knows how to withhold information only to reveal it later to great effect.  Her characters spring out of the pages. And the mesmerizing stare of the young woman on the cover will draw in existing fans and new readers alike.’

Armadillo 24/03/05
‘Rees has a used the very clever device of framing the whole story within the catalogue to an art exhibition … in her attempt to enclose that golden time within a capsule.’

The Guardian 13/03/05
‘a compellingly vivid tale of bohemian romance’.
‘The cover promises a book about ‘First love. First Sex. First death.’
It delivers.  This is a compelling read.  Rees constructs her novel like a painting, brushing the language into shape as if it were pigment, and bringing the woods, the beach, and the caravan site and the Wish House vividly to life… evocative narrative, edgy with a sense of mystery… detached analyses in critic-speak that make us see the story, which seethes with messy emotion, with a new appraising eye… Unexpected depths of character are fleetingly revealed: there are no cardboard cutouts here.  And the range of form is broad, embracing pre-Raphaelite romanticism, a touch of the Gothic, postmodern collage and photography.
The Wish House could have been just another story about the hot summer when a boy got laid and had his heart broken.  In Rees’s hands, though, it is more sensitive than that, more intriguing, never calculating, almost obvious but not quite and, by the end, genuinely moving.’

Irish Times 26/03/05
‘Celia Rees doesn’t word process, she writes, and The Wish House is sophisticated, immediate, interesting storytelling.  Its take on art and morality lingers.’

Carousel Spring 2005 Issue 29
‘Impeccably researched this is a very powerful novel.  Each chapter begins with a description of a painting, as you would find in an art exhibition catalogue, beautifully written but it is the story that shines through … Both exhilarating and bruising experiences are shared and live in the memory long after the book is closed.  Brilliant!’

The Bookseller 18/02/05
Big Sellers
‘powerfully atmospheric novel’

The Guardian 25/05/05
Author of the Month: ‘What Rees does frighteningly well is build up the slow tension in her stories. The creep of fear as adult an emotion as sex … This is Rees at her emotional best.’