‘The Grey House’ by Mariam Petrosyan

Yes, when I say that it is not house, but House it is not mistake – Grey House itself is not only a building”
Mariam Petrosyan

‘The Grey House’ by Mariam Petrosyan was written in 2009 and translated in English in 2017. I give it 5 out of 5.

This book (which consists of basically three books, but I will call them parts for my own comfort) has become a “comfort story” for a great number of people. It is not strange if you read it, but for those who didn’t it might be a surprise. At least due to the fact that majority of characters here have physical or mental disabilities (some actually have those disabilities only on paper, but it is a miserably small minority) and were left by their parents, so they all live in this half-forgotten House orienting not on morals, but on inside rules.

In ‘the Grey House’ every kid lives in certain group. There are:

  • rats (loud, colorful and unruly)
  • birds (always in grief and with plants)
  • hounds (aggressive but obedient)
  • pheasants (the “good students” don’t accept individuality)
  • and the last one without name – forth room.

The story revolves around the forth room. It has the smallest number of members – only ten kids. But every of them is unique and so different that it is impossible to describe that squad.

Story starts with Smoker – one of ‘the pheasants’, but not spiritually. He “broke the rule” and got ditched in another group. The forth room, to be clear. From the first part of the story readers with Smoker learn the rules and the life in ‘the Grey House’ (as ‘pheasants’, despite living there, don’t participate in House’s life and hold distance with other groups). There is a lot to understand. Things do not always need explanations, and stuff, which perfectly clear for others, is often completely new for a newcomer.

The second part of the story lets us observe the life in the ‘Grey House’ from different perspectives. I am trying not to spoil stuff, but it is my favorite part, so I rather keep quiet and leave it all for those, who decide to read this book.

The third part of the book is slower than others. It is the final – kids graduate and scary times approach. Last graduation left ‘the Grey House’ painted in red and gray grieves. Teachers, director and students need to make a choice, and it will not be easy one.

A lot of people say that ‘the Grey House’ may or may not let you in. Sounds absurd, I know, but after finishing this story I kind of see what they mean. It is not a kind nice story or a reality of living in a boarding school for students with disabilities. This book is something, and that’s it. There is a belief that ‘The Grey House’ needs reading three times at least – the first time you see the world as Smoker, than as Sphinx and only than you may understand ‘House’ as it does Blind.

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