The Boarding-House begins with the death of William Wagner Bird, its owner. A somewhat corpulent man with a deformed foot, Bird had received the house from its former proprietor by testament of will. As if consumed by some monstrous practical joke, Bird in turn willed the house to the two tenants least likely to get along, Nurse Clock and Mr. Studdy. The bulk of the novel traces out the initial hostility and eventual cooperation of these two residents and the unfolding stories of the other tenants of the residence at Number 2 Jubilee Road.
At first, the strict routine of the house remains fairly undisturbed by the death of its owner. Breakfast and afternoon tea continue to be served on time; cocoa after an evening of television-watching sends the inmates off to bed. Slowly the reader is introduced to the lives of the tenants, however, and is granted a privileged perspective through two devices. First are the brief but telling entries on each of the residents contained in Mr. Bird’s “Notes on Residents,” a sort of diary kept by the deceased on when and why each one of the tenants came to live in his house. Second, the reader is allowed to follow the various characters outside the precincts of the boarding-house and to see the lives they lead away from the others. It is soon apparent that none of the tenants is quite what he or she originally appeared to be, and the tension between appearances and actuality provides the impetus for the fiction, eventually supplying the novel’s denouement.
Initially, Nurse Clock is appalled at the idea of having to run the boardinghouse...
(The entire section is 658 words.)