*Fisher house. Parisian home of Naomi Fisher and her mother; the house of the novel’s title and the place in which the main action of the first and third parts of the novel unfolds. It is here that eleven-year-old Henrietta Mountjoy meets Leopold Moody. The house, in its narrow and confining way with its “thin frame,” “tight blinds” and air of sternness, suggests the secrets concerning Leopold’s parentage and the adults’ passions against which the two children struggle for a sense of their own understanding and identities. The presence of the dying Madame Fisher in her upstairs room emphasizes the need for the children to be quiet—a need reflecting the effect of the past’s secrecy on the present.
The unfamiliarity of the house to both Henrietta and Leopold provides a visual context for the situation in which the children find themselves. Both are feeling their way through unfamiliar territory. Henrietta, whose mother has died and whose father has sent her to spend time with her grandmother in Mentone, is visiting the Paris house during a stopover before another chaperon accompanies her on the next leg of her journey. Leopold, who has traveled from Spezia, is anxiously awaiting a meeting with Karen Michaelis, the natural mother whom he has never seen. Although the children are unaware of it, Miss Fisher and her dying mother are deeply connected to Leopold’s past, as is the house itself.
(The entire section is 446 words.)