Friday, December 18, 2015

The Children's Home

Title:  The Children's Home
Author:  Charles Lambert
Publication Information:  Scribner. 2016. 224 pages.
ISBN:  1501117394 / 978-1501117398

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The children began to arrive soon after Engel came to the house."

Favorite Quote:  "I suppose goodness depends on what you do, as much as what you are."

I have no idea what this book was about. The writing is intriguing enough to keep me reading for over 200 pages because I keep thinking that the story will come together. I want it to come together, but it never does. I want to understand, but I don't.

This book exists somewhere between fairly tale and horror story. It has so many of the elements for the genre. Take one mysterious, disfigured man who lives a reclusive life because of his disfigurement. Take one even more mysterious housekeeper, who seems to understand this man's every need. Take one rambling estate with many secrets and questionable treasures hidden in its many rooms. Take one outsider - a doctor. Take many children, who seem to be not quite children and who seem to appear out of nowhere. Take an establishment - "the ministry" - on the hunt for these children. Take many horrifying details - like acid being thrown on a child, children playing with a dead man, a take-apart model of a pregnant woman and one of a man's severed head, and a factory of buried children.

Take all these things together, and you have this rather odd little book. The details of this story keep me reading, but unfortunately the book provides no context in which to tie the details together into a cohesive whole. Looking at the story element by element, I still know very little:

Character - The only character to be given some background is Morgan. He is a recluse because of the disfigurement of his face and hand. His back story is developed enough to explain the disfigurement. Engel is the housekeeper, who knows and understands Morgan, but how? What is her connection to Morgan or to these children? Dr. Crane is the doctor, a lonely figure who is pulled into the life of this household, but why? From the story, it's unclear how many children there are. It seems somewhere between about 7 and about 40. It's clear that they are not quite children, and that David is a leader among them. Where do they come from? Why? Why to Morgan?

Setting - The book does not specify. For some reason, I have visions of an English country estate, but I couldn't tell you why. The book only specifies the house, the city, and the factory.

Plot and conflict - The plot has a positive thread and a horror one. Positively, the children provide Morgan with acceptance for who he is. They enable him to emerge from his closed-off, reclusive life. Perhaps, that is the main point of the book, but then why the entire horror plot line? On the horror end, the plot leads to a factory and a conflict. I am not entire sure how or why or even exactly what happens when the story gets there.

Theme - The book seems like it has an allegorical message; I just don't know what it is. It leaves me more puzzled than anything else.

Two statements from the book itself capture perfectly what I think about the book. "Have you learned nothing from all this?" And "It seems I'm doomed always to miss the point." Unfortunately, I feel as if I missed the point on this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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