Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Paperback, 320 pages

Published in the U.S. September 2015 by Titan Books (first published February 2015)

I am not even sure where to start. Pinborough has become one of my favorite authors who is enjoy a very well deserved success. the first novel of hers I read was a novel called "A Matter of Blood" which was a blacker than black noir that kicked off the fantastic Dog Faced Gods Trilogy. Some might find it hard to imagine such a beautiful story coming from the same mind, but SP has written a variety of novels. And yes it is true that a novel called The Death House is in fact a beautiful story. Some of the most beautiful stories are told in the darkest of settings and that is the case here. It is the Yin and Yang of darkness and beauty that makes this story special.

One impressive thing is the very intentional lack of world building in this novel. There is almost no background on the world beyond the walls of the Death house and the isolated island that has become a prison for the characters. Children who failed a blood test. Found to be "defective" in a world we are told they can't be a part of, torn from their families they have to learn to live together. Toby our narrator has memories about his past life but we don't hear much about it at all. That annoyed me at first, but after finishing the novel I realize the feeling isolation required this and it was a sign that we were in the hands of superior story-teller who knows very well what the hell she is doing.

Toby lives with the other defectives in the Death House, hidden from the world they know they will live there until they die. It will happen to them all, the blood will drain from their eyes and they will suffer. When they get sick they are taken to sanatorium and a memorial soon follows.

Sounds pretty sad, but this is the story of the children learning live and love in a world of misery and disease. The first 100 pages didn't hook me, but based on the strength of my experiences with Pinborough's past work I kept reading and I am thankful that I did. The last 100 pages more than made up for my hesitation at the start. The ending was powerful and just another sign that Sarah Pinborough is one of the best we got.

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