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The House of Gentle Men : A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2001


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Paperback, Bargain Price, February 1, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380809362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380809363
  • ASIN: B000C4SPAQ
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,969,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in rural Louisiana during and after WWII, this odd but appealing first novel is a disconcerting yet harmonious mix of realistic characters and place, with a fable-like premise that is initially hard to accept but acquires resonance as the book draws to a redemptive close. The title is literal, referring to a retreat where men who have sinned can stay and do penance by befriending damaged women who come to visit. Dancing, talking, cuddling, every intimate interchange short of intercourse is permitted. The men live in the house; the women arrive in the evening and often spend the night. With this quixotic project, grieving Leon Olen hopes to win back the wife who abandoned him and their two children eight years before. Nearby lives mute-by-choice Charlotte Gravin, a young woman who eight years earlier was raped by three soldiers from a nearby army camp; only two weeks before the rape, her mother died in a fire. Eventually, Charlotte is drawn to the house, as is Justin, who alone of the rapists feels remorse. Charlotte wrestles with guilt, too. Impregnated by one of the rapists, Charlotte carried the baby to term; convinced the infant was a demon, she left him in the woods. The question she faces is whether she can forgive Justin and by so doing forgive herself. Multiple subthemes and motifs-including many references to fire as purifier and destroyer-supplement the central question of the nature of aggression and the possibilities of redemption. Charlotte's brother, Milo, is an arsonist; Louise, Leon's 17-year-old daughter, who cleans compulsively to "sterilize" her environment, has internalized her rage about her family's dynamics. Her brother, Benjamin, in rebellion against his father, tries to seduce the comforted women as they leave the house. Although the coincidences are Dickensian and the notion of a sexual halfway house remains problematic, Hepinstall is deft at developing believable personalities and structuring a moral landscape in which they can find insight to reconnect with their better selves. Agent, Henry Dunow. Author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Physically damaged, emotionally abused, and love-starved women of all ages come to the House of Gentle Men for tenderness, waltzes, and chaste kisses. The men employed there believe, or choose to believe, that in this way they can redeem their violent pasts. Just after World War II, ex-soldier Justin comes to the house seeking to atone for his part in the gang rape of one of the town's young women in 1941. When Charlotte the Mute (she has not spoken since the day she was attacked) first meets Justin, she is unaware of his role in that crime, which led to a pregnancy and a baby abandoned after birth. As the relationship between Charlotte and Justin slowly develops, he realizes that he must find the courage to tell her who he really is. In an assured first novel that demonstrates promising literary talent, Hepinstall gracefully explores issues of guilt, forgiveness, grace, and redemption. A good choice for all public libraries.
-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Could not put the book down once I started reading it.
Donna L. Allcock
Kathy Hepinstall is a talented writer, who writes unique stories with highly developed characters.
Tara
I really loved this book, and wish Ms. Hepinstall success, and look forward to her next novel.
R. Witte

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Renee on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Every once in a great while a book comes along that you carry around inside your heart even after turning the final page. Kathy Hepinstall's "The House of Gentle Men" is exactly that type of book. It's rare that I find a novel that manages to combine the best of characterization, intriguing plot, and stunning language the way this one does. I fell in love with the characters, and appreciated the fact that none of them (even the ones I thought I had reason to hate in the beginning) were caricatures. Ms. Hepinstall writes with such understanding - not only the virtues of her characters, but of their faults as well, and they seem to step from the pages into real life and breath. There is truth weaved by the black ink of this novel, threaded together with tremendous heart and skill by the author. I'll be reliving and re-reading this one, to say nothing of eagerly awaiting more of Ms. Hepinstall's fiction.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jan McGreger on August 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Imagine a pleace where men who have in some way hurt women can go to offer penance for their actions. Imagine a place where women who have been hurt by men can go to be healed of their pain. That place is called the House of Gentle Men. Without giving too much of the plot away, Charlotte, who is raped by three soldiers a mere two weeks after witnessing her mother die in a fire started by Charlotte's brother, is unwittingly reunited at the House of Gentle Men with Justin, one of the soldiers who participated in the rape. We observe as they slowly chip away the wall of ice they have built around themselves -- Charlotte in self-defense and Justin as self-punishment. We learn about the child that Charlotte bore as the result of the rape and then, as an act of defiance against God, abandoned. The House of Gentle Men has an unusual effect on everyone connected with it, from the men who live there, to the women who surreptitiously arrive there under the cover of night, to the townspeople who gossip and wonder about this extraordinary haven on the outskirts of town. This is such a beautiful novel, with a unique plot, lyrical writing and the twists and turns of luck and fate. I am very anxious to read Ms. Hepinstall's next offering. With the talent she has displayed in "The House of Gentle Men", I'm certain her next book will be just as enjoyable.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dana J. Tommaney on November 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What an amazing book! The brief storyline offered above piqued my interest but in no way prepared me for the depth of feelings and emotions I would experience when I met Charlotte and later, Justin. Having lived through a harrowing experience in her rape, Charlotte makes a very difficult decision to give birth to and abandon her baby. Years later, alone and lonely, she makes her way to the house of Gentle Men to befriend Justin, a man trying to atone for his sins of the past. The theme of the book is atoning for one's sins and forgiveness - Charlotte must not only forgive the soldier who took away her innocence, but she must also forgive herself for abandoning her baby. Hepinstall cleverly contrasts sex without love to intimacy without sex and emphasizes that you need a balance to make the best relationship. Through the house of Gentle Men, Charlotte and Justin aren't the only characters who seek and attain forgiveness - you'll have to read the book to learn more!
For a first book, this is an excellent start and I hope to find more by Hepinstall very soon! Highly recommended and I will pass it on to everyone I know.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "snowflake_1108" on August 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
I must admit this book wasn't like I expected it to be. I wasn't intending on reading it but at the encouragement of some online book club friends and the loan of the book from another friend, I said what the heck, give it a shot. The House of Gentle Men is about so much more than rape. It's about how the secrets we carry effect us and others. How they can destroy our lives. It's about learning to forgive others and ourselves with ourselves often being the hardest to forgive. It's about living out a fantasy. What women wouldn't want a man to cater to her wishes? It's about second chances and how things are not always how they seem. I could say even more about this book, but I will end by saying, The House of Gentle Men is a beautifully written book that I hope you will give yourself the chance to enjoy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By jordan on February 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Here is a novel for the jaded and tired reader who just wants "something good to read" but finds that harder and harder to find. "House of Gentle Men" tells a solid story with fresh, lovely language and images to advance the plot,which is bold and satisfying and unexpected. The characters will break your heart with their human flaws, and then mend it again by the end of the story. Long after you finish reading, the perfume of Louisiana will remain in your head, and the feel of those hot lazy summers when people are being stirred to a slow boil. You come away from it remembering certain phrases the way you come away from a good musical humming the songs. I am really looking forward to the rest of Kathy Hepinstall's work, and excited by the sense that somehow I was there for the birth of a new writing star.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on August 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book qualifies as pure-dee soul food! It's been a long time since I pulled a late nighter with a new novel as I have to get up at 5:30 a.m. to go to work. . . but this book was un-put-downable! Her lyrical writing brings to mind Alice Hoffman. The characters have that sort of mystical quality where you feel as if they all have real souls and you know them from somewhere. . . I don't know how else to put it.
One of my favorite quotes that I have copied down in my 'favorite quotes' notebook is by Hemingway:
"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you are finished reading one, you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."
I think that Kathy Hepinstall is indeed such a writer! I look forward with great anticipation to her next book.
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