Review: The House Share

My niece has just been locked down at Liverpool University, during her first week of her first year of studying there. Within days of arriving, one of the seven girls on her corridor – with its shared kitchen and shared living space – was diagnosed with Covid. Now each of them, all seven young women new to each other and probably away from home for the first time, will live together in close quarters for fourteen days, maybe more. In theory, unable to escape their appartment.

As friends from outside bring them groceries, and together they somehow work out who should pay for the shop when there’s booze/no booze, meat/no meat fussiness, let alone what’s playing on the TV or Alexa, one can quickly imagine a steaming pot of tension quickly overflowing.

Thank goodness then for The Factory. The supermodern exclusive apartment block that stands at the centre of Kate Harrison’s first thriller, The House Share, written under the penn name Kate Helm. The Factory is a multi-storey young person paradise, a co-living community space, with floors for leisure, wellness, eating and a rooftop plaza for boozing.

Immi and Dex are newcomers to the houseshare, elected it appears because of their wit and unique style, and because they’re are deemed by three self appointed leaders of the house – ominously known as The Committee – to most likely to fit in with the painfully hip, diverse London lot that have made The Factory their home.

But have they made the Factory, or has The Factory created them?

What begins as a simple houseshare story, albeit with extra hipster gloss and a strange maid called Hannah who lives in the cellar and supplies the housemates with free food, booze and cleans up their after all night parties, it quickly rises in tension to something akin to Danny Boyle’s comedy horror film Shallow Grave, with a modern sprinkling on-trend near distopian creepyness.

From naïve health freak Ashleigh, to handsy posh boy Lucas, the forever cross and strange Veronikia, plus proud mother-hen Camile, a slow unveiling of shattered pasts and disturbed presents are revealed, to the desperation of Immi who discovers that the The Factory lays bare, rather than hides, her own secrets and fears.

Desperate to escape, but unable to afford anywhere else in London, she decides to stay as the housemates – or should that be inmates – slowly unveil their darkest sides, working through age-old grudges and long gone affairs.

Like her, are they too unable to escape the world they’ve created? Or is there something even deeper at play?

The House Share is a clever, ever twisting thriller, with a smart nod to a near possible future with its ever demanding glance back at flawed human nature. Helm has created a created a world that is so sickeningly ‘woke’ that the reader just knows blood might be spilled.

You will want to kill most of the characters yourself.

As my neice must be feeling right now, I had to get close and personal with the numerous characters very quickly in the book, and that did mean I sometimes found it hard to keep track of who was who, with what problems, and with what relationships with each other. And the sudden appearance of Hannah from the cellar remains a mystery.

But perhaps that was Kate Helm’s intention. When you go into a houseshare, you never quite know who, or what, you’re going to get.

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