Coffeerooms BookMark 20 Questions


The House of Gentle Men

Kathy Hepinstall,
author of
The House of Gentle Men

questions provided by Carrie
page 5

When Justin confesses his sin to Mr. Olen, he mentions that the things he did in the war don't haunt him as does the violence done to Charlotte. Why is that? What makes the rape so much worse than the atrocities of war?

I think the rape is worse to Justin because he knows, deep down, the innocence of the girl. There was no excuse for his actions; not even the flimsy excuse that he was a soldier in a war; this was before the war, during the maneuvers. I also think that, deep down, Justin is a "gentle man," despite his truly awful mistake.

Mr. Olen's house is analogous to a monastery with him being the Father Superior. The one major difference being the occupation of the men. Why choose a male house of "ill repute" as a vehicle for redemption?

I was interested in doing a story around a house for a long time. I think women are more sentimental about houses than men. It also allowed the narrative to collect in one place. The fact that it was a bordello--I don't remember how that came about.

Most of the men don't understand how to treat women. Mr. Olen learned by having his wife leave him and chooses to teach other men. Milo, Benjamin, and the Sheriff do not understand the softer side of love; but Daniel understands. Why do only the child and the old man have this knowledge? And why have they arrived at this understanding through different paths?

I'm not sure that either Mr. Olen or Daniel the boy (aside from his Christ-like symbolism) have a true and complete grasp of love. Mr. Olen only understands love in the context of loss--it was the loss of his wife that led to his introspection. And Daniel is too young to understand all the shades and complexities of love. His love is pure and yet it lacks experience.


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Kathy Hepinstall
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