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The Wish House

The Wish House

3.0 5
by Celia Rees

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From the best-selling author of WITCH CHILD and SORCERESS comes another engrossing, atmospheric novel — following a teenage boy as he uncovers the secrets of the mysterious and provocative Wish House.

It's the start of summer vacation, and fifteen-year-old Richard has discovered that a family has taken up residence in the usually deserted Wish House.


From the best-selling author of WITCH CHILD and SORCERESS comes another engrossing, atmospheric novel — following a teenage boy as he uncovers the secrets of the mysterious and provocative Wish House.

It's the start of summer vacation, and fifteen-year-old Richard has discovered that a family has taken up residence in the usually deserted Wish House. Richard is intrigued by both the house and the bohemian family now living there. The father, Jethro Dalton, is an internationally renowned painter; his seemingly licentious wife is fascinated by herbs and cures. But it's their beautiful and vibrant daughter, Clio, the muse for Jethro’s paintings, who draws Richard utterly into the Daltons' world. Soon Richard finds himself so captivated by Clio that he steals off to the woods to spend days and nights with her, meanwhile struggling to understand and fit in with her eccentric clan. How could he know that some mysteries are best left alone — and that some betrayals can never be forgiven?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Although Rees's (Witch Child) story of the life-changing summer when Richard was 15 begins with an air of mystery ("first real kiss, first true love, first sex. First death"), the true thrust of the novel is an exploration of the nature of creativity and life on the fringes of society. The author begins in 1982, as Richard, now 21, enters a gallery where his image plays a starring role in the erotic exhibition on display. The paintings touch off flashbacks to the summer of 1976 in Wales, six years earlier, when he first meets the artist, Jethro Arnold ("Jay") Dalton, and his family. Rees fluidly incorporates the image of each painting and the events surrounding it; the Daltons' home, the Wish House of the title, is simultaneously grand and decaying, seductive and forbidding. The backdrop, too, evokes an era when joints, open marriages, and running naked on the beach were common. Clio, the artist's teenage daughter, fascinates and enthralls Richard, and the two soon begin spending days exploring the woods and meadows, and the nights exploring each other. Eventually, Richard realizes there has been a terrible betrayal that changes his view of everything. Rees is at the top of her form. The "gallery notes" describing the works by Clio and her father anchor the story, told in third-person from Richard's point of view, while the solid characterizations carry along the flashback scenes. A top-notch look at first love, heartbreak, and the driving force of passion. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jane Jessell
Richard and his family have spent many summers at the English countryside. He and his best friend Dylan treasured many of those idyllic days exploring the nearby woods and a deserted cottage that they imagined held all sorts of dark and thrilling secrets. During the summer that Richard turns fifteen he discovers that the Dalton family has moved into the cottage, and he spends the remainder of that transformative summer as a pawn in the family's cruel and twisted psychological games. Relying on mood and innuendo rather than plot or character development for effect, Rees does manage to present a sufficiently creepy backdrop to Richard's coming-of-age story. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, each introduced by the description of a painting that the patriarch Jay Dalton has created. These paintings attempt to illuminate the characters' behavior in the chapters that follow, but neither we nor Richard are ever sure why the bohemian mother Lucia or the sexually manipulative daughter Clio is behaving in such an odd and troubling manner. Richard is emotionally unprepared to comprehend the Dalton's strange lifestyle, and the line between what is art and what is authentic is eventually lost to him and to the reader. With suggestions of incest and overt drug use, Rees has moved away from the younger audiences that embraced her earlier works Pirates and Witch Child. Unfortunately, the novel's revealed secret falls short of fully clarifying the family's odd behavior and is neither as shocking nor explanatory as readers have a right to expect.
VOYA - Rollie Welch
Rees steers readers to the dark side of a young man's coming-of-age during the mid-1970s. Richard, on the cusp of maturity, visits his summer vacation play area, The Wish House. For years the home was abandoned, but Richard finds that the crumbling relic has been bought and refurbished and that a family has settled there. His surprise turns to shock upon discovering Lucia, the older woman of the family, sunbathing nude and a young man inside the house smoking a fat joint. Richard's life is changed by the gravitational pull of this group of "hippies," and he becomes obsessed with Clio, the daughter of famous painter Jay Dalton. Jay desperately wants the young man to model for him. Richard agrees so that he can be around Clio, a girl with a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. Throughout the story, Rees drops hints that this clan is not what it seems to be, a technique encouraging readers to turn pages. Are they merely amiable freethinkers? A coven of witches? Or something more sinister? A mixed-media writing style supports the novel's flow. Art-show descriptions of Jay Dalton's paintings introduce each chapter and provide previews of what will happen next. But there lies the problem. The hinted danger fails to explode off the pages. The revealed truth is emotionally harmful but not especially dangerous to Richard. Teens with an interest in art and those who enjoy atmospheric tales may be drawn to this title that needs a booktalking assist to move off the shelves.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Richard looks back on his 15th summer, when he was vacationing with his family in Wales. It was 1976 when his fate became inextricably entwined with that of an artistic, bohemian family. Naive, middle-class Richard is bowled over by temperamental J. A. Dalton, famous artist and father of the seductive Clio. She and virgin Richard begin an affair, and it is soon clear that he is in way over his head. There are dark family secrets and the torment of a volatile painter with artist's block. An air of unreality surrounds the teens, who put themselves in a fantasy world based on British mythology, an obsession of Jay's. The man's current wife, Lucia, is a witch with a garden of all black plants, many of which are poisonous. Richard is drawn into the allure of this skinny-dipping, pot-smoking world. Inevitably he realizes the depths of the family's betrayal and their calculated use of him. He then sets in motion a series of events that haunt him until he is 21 and finds redemption. Readers might be confused by the opening, but the agony and ecstasy of first love are well conveyed. This sinister and intense novel will surely appeal to teens eager to follow the twists and turns of a tangled, yet affecting tale.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An intense foray into first lust and the meanings of art in the summer of 1970 and six years later. Rees prefaces each chapter with a catalogue raisonne entry, an art critic's description or some other scrap of printed matter that sets the stage. In London's SoHo, a 21-year-old Richard goes to an invitation-only art gallery exhibiting Clio Dalton's work. The summer they were 15, Richard had stumbled over her and her family at the Wish House, where he and a buddy used to hang out in the summer when it was abandoned. Now, however, Clio, her mother Lucia and her artist father J.A. Dalton, and an ever-changing coterie of relatives, friends and hangers-on are spending the summer. Richard is closed, thoughtless and utterly confused by these free spirits; he is obsessed with Clio and her body and the lovely, imaginative games they play full of knights and quests. J.A. is also painting the golden, handsome Richard. There are no sympathetic characters here: Clio is manipulative and dangerous; J.A. is tortured and passionate; Richard's first sight of Lucia is of her lying naked on the lawn. Things end very badly, if predictably, indeed. Compelling for its examination of the darker side of desire both sexual and artistic. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Pan Macmillan
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

He froze in mid-step, intensely aware of his own paleness encased in hairy wool and khaki. He had not expected anyone to be here when he mounted the worn steps up to the garden. The big gray stone house had been deserted when he had come here with Dylan last summer. It had been empty for years and had become one of their special places, where they went to play and explore. It was called the Wish House, Dylan told him, because the trees around it seemed to be in constant motion. Even on a day as still as this, they seemed to whisper, "I wish . . . I wish . . ." It gave the house an extra creepiness that added spice to their visits. The sound was there now, mixed in with thinsounding, slightly discordant music made by stringed instruments and a drum. That was what had made Richard mount the steps, thinking he’d discovered something genuinely mysterious — until he saw this woman.

He tried to look away, but he couldn’t shift his focus. He held his hand up, as if to ward off the vision or to block it out of his own line of sight. He reached behind as though to steady himself on the warm lichen-embossed wall. He was beginning to sweat. He felt the dampness creeping through his hair, the beads break out on his forehead and upper lip.Should he go on? Should he go back? He did not know what to do.

The decision was made for him.

The woman rose up on one elbow, squinting at him, shading her eyes against the strong sun shining from behind him, the glare oflight shimmering up from the sea.

"Well, hello there. And who are you?"


THE WISH HOUSE by Celia Rees. Copyright © 2006 by Celia Rees. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Celia Rees has written many acclaimed novels for young adults, including WITCH CHILD and its sequel, SORCERESS. Of THE WISH HOUSE, she says, "Everyone has special places, special summers, special people, combined into times they will never forget. The people who live in the Wish House are fictional, but the events that happen are archetypal: first love, first sex, first experience with death." Celia Rees lives in Warwickshire, England.

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The Wish House 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
richard s the main character of the book was in a lone neighborhood untill a bohemian family moved to the house next door. he decides to get upsessed with sleeping with their daughter clio and she ends up her and her family as wild aliens from jupiter tring to kkill richard
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Wish House is a fascinatingly disturbing book. Richard (aka Ricardo a¿la Lucia) encounters a nude woman sunbathing on the grounds of Wish House¿named because of the sound of the wind makes in the trees around the house. Thus starts an erotic encounter with Lucia (mother to Clio and Joe and wife/muse of Jay Dalton) and her family. While not ALL the lurid details are exposed, many are alluded to, making this a story that really requires a mature audience. The story itself delves into the life of an artist with fascinating excerpts from notes the artist, himself, makes as well as published essays and explanations of his art. Richard seduced by Clio Dalton in order to manipulate him into posing for Jay Dalton, and the entire family¿s somewhat unconventional, mystical, hippie lifestyle is revealed. The characterizations are fascinating, and the storyline is as well. I found myself becoming more interested in Celtic mythology as a result of reading it. I also found myself drawn to the tormented artist¿s character. It¿s a great read, and a fast one, but definitely is not going to be one that is enjoyed by a more conservative audience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfect Gothic atmosphere - creepy and disturbing. My favorite novel from Celia Rees. Often overlooked by American readers, this is a YA book definitely worth reading. Has is all: sex, drugs, witchcraft, seduction, and Art folded into a layered coming of age story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheBookKeeper1 More than 1 year ago
I somehow felt connected to it, idk kinda wierd. But i think not the majority of people would like it .....but I loved it.