January 5, 2016
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For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor,and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.
In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.
Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan's lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan's library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan's past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan's mind.
The Children's Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque - as well as the glimmers of goodness - buried deep within the soul.
The Children's Home was an interesting, kind of strange and confusing read for me. The writing itself reminded me more of short stories than of a novel (fitting, I suppose, as the author has also written short stories). The premise: a recluse living on a secluded estate befriends the town doctor and cares for the children that being appearing.
The children, their appearances, how Morgan reacts, the introduction of Dr Crane to their lives, and Morgan's past were all very intriguing. It is very much not your typical tale and trying to figure out what was happening and what was going to happen kept me reading.
It always seemed like we were getting odd bits of the story and characters, sometimes it was clear that it was important or would be, other times I wasn't sure of the why.
I know the ending represented something and that it was a big metaphor or allegory or whatever, but it really just ended up not making sense to me. There did not seem to be enough lead up to it and then it seemed rather rushed.
I liked the author's creativity with the children, their appearance and behavior, even Morgan, his past and how it was impacting his life. I think that how the story was told, the writing style and the short length just did not allow me to get everything out of this that I could have. Or wanted to.
review copy received, via NetGalley, from publisher