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The Children's Home: A Novel Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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"The Children's Home is a not-nice sort of fairy tale, where the magic doesn't sparkle prettily but boils and oozes, where the Prince has a face of tatters, where the children take grown-up revenge on their monsters. It's also, somehow, a searching, empathetic narrative about forgiveness." (Owen King, author of DOUBLE FEATURE: A NOVEL)
"A beautiful and uncanny novel by a writer who never ceases to surprise." (Jenny Offill, author of DEPT. OF SPECULATION)
"Charles Lambert’s muted, beautiful prose leads the reader through The Children’s Home on a chain of burning questions: Who? When? How? Why? More delicate than Dickens and stranger than Snicket, this is a novel of odd, canny children; life-like wax figures; a wicked mother and her disfigured boy-man of a son. Sometimes heart-stopping, sometimes heart-warming, it is a provocative tale, ripe with intrigue and atmosphere. I loved every weird moment of it. " (Nuala O’Connor, author of MISS EMILY)
“Dark and nuanced, eerie and quiet, The Children’s Home creeps behind the curtains of your imagination. This book stays with you.” (Amelia Gray, author of THREATS and GUTSHOT)
"A thoroughly original entry into the tradition of ghost stories, eschewing convention….compulsively readable….A one of a kind literary horror story.” (Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review)
“This genre-bending debut is by turns dread-inducing and heartwarming, a masterful exploration of whether innocence can truly sprout from ignorance….a magical, mesmerizing tale about the courage it takes to confront the unknown.” (Booklist, STARRED review)
“Mesmerizing….The folkloric undertone and stylish prose, which is replete with gruesome and wondrous images, keep the reader turning the pages.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A delightful work of parts dark fairy tale and literary horror….a haunting Gothic in the vein of Shirley Jackson, steeped with the mystery and imagination of Neil Gaiman’s fairy tales. Lambert’s prose is beautiful and his tale is mesmerizing.” (Cemetery Dance)
"Disquieting...surely one of the year’s most bizarre stories....Lambert’s subtle prose enhances the novel’s creepiness." (The New York Times)
“This genre-bending horror story is sure to haunt you in all the best ways.” (Bustle "Best Books of the Month")
"A weird, poignant journey reminiscent of Calvino that explores fear, power, revenge and redemption...Lambert’s story is addictive." (Bookpage)
"Unsettling and subtle...Lambert does an exceptional job in amplifying the general creepiness of the narrative through a sense of precise ambiguity. The Children’s Home is the best kind of ghost story – one that scares, one that surprises … and one that you simply can’t stop reading." (The Maine Edge)
“Lambert’s allegory successfully draws on ancient mythology and gothic horror to explore the idea of tearing away our masks and admitting that our faces and masks might be interchangeable, or at least that the lines between them might be blurred.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"A startling and adept blend of realism and frightening fantasy...glittering vividness both lovely and grotesque. The Children's Home is unforgettable: fanciful, chilling and poignant." (Shelf Awareness)
“Written with charm and restraint, Charles Lambert’s The Children’s Home is a unique fantasy….[Lambert’s] writing tugs you along to [a] strange and disturbing conclusion.” (The Missourian)
“Charles Lambert weaves a disturbing tale, stirring the imagination in the manner of Roald Dahl or C.S. Lewis.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
"Through lyrical prose, Lambert creates an absorbing and dream-like narrative that recalls both the pastoral gothic of Shirley Jackson and the dystopic vision of John Wyndham." (Columbus Dispatch)
"Beautifully written...utterly charming.. a book that seems, at first, to be a fairy tale or a dream sequence but is, in actuality, a dark psychological treatise." (Buffalo News)
About the Author
Charles Lambert is the author of many novels, short stories, and the memoir, With a Zero at its Heart, which was named one of The Guardian’s Ten Best Books of the Year in 2014. In 2007, he won an O. Henry Award for his short story, “The Scent of Cinnamon.” He has been shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Lichfield Prize, and the Willesden Short Story Prize. He was born in Lichfield, England, and currently lives near Rome, Italy.
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Top Customer Reviews
It could be classified literary fiction, fantasy-realism, a fairytale, or allegory. You'll have to decide.
Morgan is in his twenties, living the life of a recluse on his family estate. He was horribly disfigured as an older teenager and bears the scars on his face and more importantly, in his mind.
His only companion is a housekeeper sent to care for him by his sister. And then the children start showing up, strays. Some are left on the doorstep, suddenly appear in the yard, or show up with no explanation. it's quickly very clear that these aren't normal children. They have the run of the household, but often disappear, seemingly when Morgan wants solitude, or when there is danger.
There are clues that conditions in the world outside the estate are bad, with the building of a fortress-like wall, fires and gunshots happening, guards, men in uniform, and the danger almost invisible, but very palpable. Because of his shame about how he looks, Morgan has not gone off the estate for years.
A local doctor comes to treat one of the little girls and becomes friends with the recluse, finally even moving in. The male friendship that the two men develop is poignant and satisfying.
Everything is happy in the house, with some very odd occurrences, culminating when officials from the ministry of welfare show up to take the children. By that time, Morgan, Dr. Crane, and the housekeeper have made the decision to raise the children and protect them.
I couldn't put the book down. The prose was sparse, details vague, but the play of magic and menace was very addictive. The writing was compelling and made for compulsive reading. The story and images will stay with me, and the underlying themes of power, evil, and human bonds.
Some readers may not like the complete lack of specifics. We know some history of the family, there's a factory that the sister runs, maybe trading spice, arms, or power. The location is also unclear, though there are clues. The reader will need to suspend disbelief that these children show up out of nowhere and are accepted without question.
Highly recommended, especially for a rainy day.
A terribly scarred and disfigured man, a grand secluded estate, furniture and carvings from all over the world are well described by Lambert, creating the centerpiece of our story. How was he so maimed? Where is this place? When is this place? And most of all, where are all the children coming from? All ages, both genders they simply arrive/appear on the estate. He and his housekeeper are the only inhabitants of the house and they care for the children unquestioningly. Mysterious wax figures are discovered, and a mission seems to be forming around the man. He is only told that he will know what to do when the time comes.
The reviews on GoodReads are quite mixed, and tend to be lesser rather than more. I can understand why, but was compelled to rate it as highly as I have because of the ambiance of the story, the mixture of tragedy, love given and received, and total weirdness truly swept me along. There is an air of magical realism about the story, not a genre I enjoy. But, somehow, this works for me. I would have appreciated a little more.....body to the ending, but it is what it is, and that's ok.
Interestingly, there is a small comparison for me to the book The Adventurers by Harold Robbin in that there is a past revolution apparently fueled by an Army that is now in disarray. That is part of my sympathy for the story, I believe.
Recommended, if you can enjoy open endings that don't explain everything.