“The Little House:” Probing Into The Darkest Corners of the Manipulative Mindset

“The Little House” (Novel)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

‘The Little House’ is a 1996 psychological thriller novel by British author Philippa Gregory.


After four years of marriage, Ruth and Patrick Cleary, a young English couple, visit Patrick’s parents in Bath. Having been orphaned as a child, Ruth feels isolated and alone in the oppressive, close-knit Cleary family, and her husband seems unaware of her discomfort. She has always longed for a family of her own, and in the early days of their marriage believed she had found it with Patrick, but now, caught up in his career as a journalist, Patrick seems distant and distracted from his wife’s concerns. On an impulse, Patrick buys a cottage near his parents’ isolated manor house and sells the apartment his wife has made her home. After the move, Ruth loses her job and, though she had not intended to become a mother, she falls pregnant. After the birth of her child, she suffers post-natal depression, and Patrick’s mother Elizabeth, the domineering matriarch of the Cleary family, begins to take over Ruth’s role as mother and homemaker. Having been manipulated by her mother-in-law into a stay at a “rest home”, Ruth is so medicated she can barely function, but she rallies, and finally wrests control of her life in a final Gothic twist.


“The Little House”

Philippa Gregory, Author

(Source: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-017670-9)

Gregory’s sixth novel moves from her usual historical fiction (“A Respectable Trade,” etc.) to a contemporary tale that treats familiar, middle-class domestic ground with a horrific tilt.

Every Sunday, Ruth and Patrick Cleary, a young English couple married just four years, visit Patrick’s parents in Bath. Both Ruth and Patrick work in news production, but even in the common area of career the balance of attention tips heavily toward Patrick. Ruth feels like an outsider in the close-knit Cleary family, and Patrick and his parents are oblivious to her pain. Orphaned since childhood, Ruth has always yearned for love and a sense of belonging. In the first flush of passion, Patrick promised these; he even promised to help Ruth recover her lost childhood by traveling back to her childhood home in Boston. Snugly married and absorbed by his career, however, Patrick has lost track of his wife and his promises. When the cottage at the end of the lane from his parents’ manor house comes up for sale, he sells the Bristol condo Ruth loves without a thought.

Ruth soon becomes a poster-girl for co-dependence: she loses her job and unwillingly becomes pregnant. After her son is born, she sinks into depression, allowing her mother-in-law to take over completely. Finally, she is manipulated into a “”rest home”” where she becomes ‘zonked’ on antidepressants. Hitting rock-bottom, Ruth rallies, only to take control of her life in a joltingly, twisted way. Gregory writes smoothly enough, but her insights into the dysfunctional family are only pedestrian, laying fallow ground for a surprise ending that neither horrifies nor enlightens.


Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Little House’ coming to ITV1

9TH NOVEMBER 2009 BY Lisa McGarry

Source: http://primetime.unrealitytv.co.uk/philippa-gregorys-the-little-house-coming-to-itv1/

ITV have announced it has commissioned a drama adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s bestselling novel, The Little House.

Adapted by Ed Whitmore, creator of new ITV drama Identity, the story focuses on the lives of four characters, Ruth, a young woman whose parents tragically died in a car crash when she was a child, her career-minded husband Patrick and his wealthy, all-consuming parents Elizabeth and Frederick.

With no family to call her own, Ruth is carried along on a tide of apparently well-meaning family gestures which leave the previously independent teacher pregnant and living in ‘the little house’ at the end of her in-laws driveway. It’s an idyllic place, and it seems ungrateful to complain when Elizabeth and Frederick have given the picture book cottage to their son and his wife as a generous gift.

Despite initial reservations about moving so close to her in-laws, within months Ruth has, on the surface, settled into her new, apparently perfect life. But she soon realises she’s completely isolated, living in a house she never wanted and with a baby she hadn’t planned to have.

In the early weeks of her baby’s life, Ruth struggles with postpartum depression and the unresolved feelings she has about the premature deaths of her parents. It appears as though her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, is manipulating information and situations to take control of Ruth, Patrick and their new baby. Or is she?

Throughout the drama, the character of Elizabeth and her relationship with Ruth are subtly developed as they both try and take control of their connected lives until, inevitably, and very dramatically, they reach a point of no return.

Consequently, the viewer will continually question: Is Elizabeth playing mind games with Ruth? Could she really be waging psychological warfare on her daughter-in- law? Or is Ruth hysterically distorting events in her own mind?

The Little House has been commissioned by ITV Drama Commissioners, Laura Mackie and Sally Haynes.

“The Little House is a creepy and compelling tale of the power struggles within one family. Ed’s script brilliantly captures the claustrophobia and tension in Philippa’s novel and constantly plays with your perceptions of the two central women. It’s an atmospheric and chilling drama,” said Laura.

The Little House will be produced by TXTV who previously produced the critically acclaimed three part drama, Torn for ITV in 2007 and starred Holly Aird and Bradley Walsh.

“We are delighted to be working with ITV again,” said Jeremy Gwilt who will produce and also executive produce with colleagues Matt Arlidge and Chris Lang. “We know the audience will enjoy The Little House as it promises to be gripping drama.”

Filming for The Little House will take place in May and June 2010.


This blog is solely concerned in gaining a further insight into the manipulative mindset. It is a continuation blog, giving a different perspective, from an earlier blog of mine, entitled, ‘“The House of Stairs:” Probing into the Depths of a Manipulative Mind.’


Manipulators have so many negative qualities in their character and personality that any positive traits that they might possess are far out-shadowed by their basic negativity. It is, indeed, a sorry state of affairs.


  • Manipulators (such as Elizabeth, in the novel mentioned above) hide their true demeanor behind a mask of congeniality, charm and so-called “helpfulness.” Such people can, outwardly be very persuasive and attractive but it is all skillfully planned out in the mind of the manipulator to hide their true nature of being overbearing, high-handed, domineering, autocratic and dictatorial.
  • A person, who can be a “yes-man” to the manipulator, will find that they have little or no problems in getting along with them. The moment that the manipulated person starts to assert himself/herself will be the time when they see the poisonous fangs of the snake lying, supposedly dormant, in the grass. The mask inevitably falls and the manipulator reveals his/her ugly self.


  • The manipulator is very secretive about his/her own life and happenings but will happily seek, every opportunity, to intrude upon the privacy and lives of the people who they manipulate.


  • Manipulators are highly intelligent people who use their intelligence in the wrong way and for all the wrong reasons.


  • They invariably have a hidden agenda and ulterior motives. Their entire behavioral pattern is dictated by these hidden motives.


  • They are very sly, devious and sneaky people; they feel no qualms in ‘making use of another’ to suit their hidden desires. They are equally unscrupulous in ‘dumping’ the manipulated person, once their hidden agenda is revealed. The manipulated person could be just about anyone, but the most likely victims are family members and so-called ‘friends.’


  • Manipulators are pathological liars. They wage a kind of psychological warfare on unsuspecting people and they invariably play ‘mind games.’ Their behaviour speaks of psychological and emotional abuse – their object is to make the opposite party feel thoroughly incompetent and inefficient, which might not necessarily be the case. This is a devious way used by the manipulator to make him/her look highly competent and extremely efficient in the face of the contrived mediocrity of the other – again not necessarily true.


  • Manipulators do have a conscience – they can differentiate, very well, between Right and Wrong but they willfully choose to continue with their destructive and harmful ways because it suits their hidden purposes.


  • They are totally ruthless people and will stoop to the lowest of levels to get what they want.


  • They are extremely selfish, egoistic, self-opinionated, insensitive, callous and narcissistic people. Their whole – and only – concern is to live to the satisfaction of the dictum, “Me, Myself and I.”
  • They like to think of themselves as being very honest and forthright. The truth is that they are invariably blunt, hurtful, cruel and offensive.


  • Manipulators are wholesomely obnoxious people. The best way to deal with manipulators is not to lose perspective and to keep faith in one’s own capabilities and strengths. One needs to speak politely but firmly to such people – the manipulator will invariably not like opposition of any sort but one must learn to maintain a firm stand, in the face of this opposition.


  • Try your best to disassociate yourself from such people: manipulators portray themselves as being well-intentioned but the reality is far from the truth.


The question that finally arises is this one: ‘Can the manipulator be rehabilitated so that they can become better people? The answer never changes: it is a resounding, “YES.”’

“The Little House” – a novel by Philippa Gregory.
“The Little House” – an ITV adaptation of the novel by Philippa Gregory.

The sad truth is that manipulators thrive on destructive behaviour; they have every intention of continuing their harmful ways, for a long time to come because it suits their hidden purposes.

This author is your teacher. But like any other teacher, I can keeping teaching you till ‘Kingdom Come’, but if you don’t make even a single effort to help yourself, there is little that I can do to help.


Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory

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