I’ve been aching to read Sarah Pinborough for ages and I feel like this novel was a great introduction for me to a widely popular author. I’ve already seen a lot of reviews for this book but after reading the premise, I really wanted to read it myself and put my own opinion forward.
A routine blood test turns teenage Toby’s life upside down when the results cause him to be ripped away from his family and sent to live at the Death House.
Shut away from the other world, Toby lives with other so called “Defective” children who are monitored day and night by aloof nurses watching out for signs of sickness. When a child begins to show symptoms of illness, they are spirited away in the night to the daunting Sanatorium, where no child has ever returned from.
Toby often separates himself from the normal routine of the house, but when a new arrival, the vibrant Clara, joins the residents, he begins to look at both his old and new life in ways he has never encountered before.
It’s like the book starts off in monochrome as Toby reflects on his situation, and when Clara arrives things start to bloom into colour. I kind of imagined the Death House to be like the building used for the asylum in the second season of American Horror Story. The Death House as a symbol in itself is dark and ominous and a powerful setting for such a story.
I found that each character is written as though it could be someone you know which makes their lives all the more easy to get caught up in. Given the title, it is easy to mistake this story for an exploration of death that will probably be depressing and even a little scary but it really isn’t. It’s more about living and about hope. With the children from different backgrounds thrown together in this dire situation, despite their fears, there is friendship, hope and love which was moving to read.
Although I did enjoy this book, there were some things I really wanted explained. The references to the condition they were all afflicted with really intrigued me. Also the Sanatorium and the detachment of the house staff were also not explained which on one hand supplies all the fascinating mystery, but on the other doesn’t do anything for my curiosity! I’d love a follow-up to this which maybe gives a little more revelations about the mysterious Death House and its inhabitants.
This book is a stunning exploration of life and human emotions, with a creativity and intelligence that ensure this story stays with you long after the last page.