About the book
Shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction 2023
I’ve been examining maps lately, the pink railway tracks and yellow roads, the wandering blue of creeks and rivers, bold print naming of suburbs. Trying to understand the scale, which seems all wrong because this city is vast but my life in it is so small.
Lily works as a cleaner. She moves through houses in inner-city Melbourne, unseen, scrubbing away the daily residue of other people’s privilege. Her partner Janks works the line in a local food factory. With every pay check they inch further away from their former world of poverty and addiction.
Lily and Janks are determined that their daughter Jewelee will have a different life. She’ll have a career, not a dead-end job. She’ll have savings, not debt. But precarious lives are easily upended. One wrong move throws the family into a situation in which the lines between right and wrong, hope and disappointment, are blurred.
Other Houses is a masterful and tender story about people who live from payday to payday. Acutely observed and lyrical, Paddy O’Reilly’s novel paints a haunting picture of class, aspiration and the boundaries we will cross for love.
‘Other Houses hits all the cultural and social notes of our times: identity politics, the working poor, shame, suburbia, drug addiction, and the Australian Dream. And it does so authentically through the choice and rendition of characters.’ Sydney Review of Books
‘Other Houses is O’Reilly’s fourth novel and her first in eight years. It is more than worth the wait.’ The Saturday Paper
Nominated as one of the best Australian books out in April by The Guardian
‘a striking and sensitive work… These stories are not meant to be gawked at or evoke hand-wringing guilt (if so, that’s on you). Instead, they strive to capture the humour and small pleasures that come with making do despite hardship and drudgery, while also attending to the grim reality that “you can never get away from the place that first dragged you down”. ‘ The Guardian
‘an intricately observed, often dryly funny, deeply affecting novel with cracking forward momentum… This is Paddy O’Reilly’s sixth book and her experience shows in its assured polish, layered emotional texture and quietly acerbic social commentary.’ InDaily
‘The Aussie book to read now. If there’s any justice, [Paddy O’Reilly’s] latest, Other Houses, will find legions of new fans.’ Qantas Magazine
‘She does that really well – just how precarious life can be for some people. And she does it with great tenderness for her characters, and great compassion for her characters… Paddy O’Reilly knows what she’s doing.’ ABC Radio National Bookshelf
‘Despite a sense of predestination characterising the narrative, the characters’ suffering never feels superfluous. Moments of humour and levity punctuate the direst situations, and the indignities portrayed in Other Houses add to the verisimilitude of the characters’ struggle to stay afloat, more than any gratuitously detailed suffering could.’ ABR (Australian Book Review)
‘The novel is preoccupied with the things we hold dear, the fragility of attachment and the injustice of circumstance.’ Artshub
‘Other Houses is a gritty novel about serious issues, but it’s often playful. O’Reilly has fun depicting the kinds of houses that Lily and her friend Shannon clean, showing the financial and social gulf between those who are cleaners and those who can afford them… Highly recommended.’ ANZ Litlovers
Praise for Other Houses
‘I’ve always loved O’Reilly’s acute, compassionate prose and sharp wit, and this novel reminds me why. With the tension of a thriller but the freshness and acuity of art, Other Houses is an authentic and surprising portrayal of a family under strain.’ Charlotte Wood
‘O’Reilly’s power over voice and language just leaps out of the gates and takes charge of your heart in this striking and compelling work. Nuanced and powerful, this is a story in which her uncanny ability to render flawed, fractured and fallible characters with dignity and pathos shines from every page.’ Cate Kennedy
‘A wonder of a novel – subtle, funny and wise. Other Houses is gloriously written: brimful of life and the dreams that give us hope. I loved it.’ Lucy Treloar
‘Punchy, gutsy writing. I couldn’t put it down.’ Favel Parrett
‘A rich, sad and tender story about work, friendship and standing up for the people you love. Wise, funny and truthful — a gem of a novel. O’Reilly writes of ordinary people with rare grace.’ Carrie Tiffany
‘Paddy O’Reilly cracks windows onto lives too rarely written in this bracing story of a woman tending to the households of strangers while her own runs towards catastrophe. Other Houses recalls the best of Lucia Berlin in its wry compassion and frank illumination of deeply ingrained class inequity.’ Josephine Rowe
‘Compelling, gritty and shot through with empathy, O’Reilly writes with such heart about the people that fall between the cracks.’ Toni Jordan