Monday, 12 October 2015

The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

Toby's life was perfectly normal... until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.

The Death House is, at its heart, a love story. Unlikely I know for something that reads like a dystopian Gothic but it's the truth. Toby is one of a handful of residents of the Death House, an isolated big house on an island presumably somewhere in the British Isles.Sixteen years old and decidedly unlikeable Toby is waiting to die, like all the other residents of the Death House, from a mysterious illness that can only be picked up in a blood test and once you're found to have it you're whisked away - leaving your life, family and friends behind for good. One day though, something happens and Toby realizes that just maybe he wants to live. Clara, the new resident, turns everyone's lives upside down and suddenly little things that didn't matter? Now they do...

I'm a huge fan of Sarah Pinborough's writing and have been since I picked up a copy of A Matter of Blood way back when. The Death House is one for the favorite's list, it's beautifully written and the children in the house are vividly written as is the house itself. It should be a depressing, downbeat read but is actually quite wonderful in its description and the way that there's a layer of menace over everything, from the children themselves to the matron who is maybe just as dangerous as this disease they are all facing. Clara and Toby are two of the best written teenagers I've come across in a while. In fact it's quite easy to forget they are teenagers at times as they develop a sense of maturity way above those of their peers not on the island. The supporting cast of characters, Will, Louis, Jake, Eleanor and Ashley are all equally as well written and unique in their character too and play pivotal parts in the story of The Death House. It's a slow build to a most unexpected ending, especially when there's an element of hope throughout the latter part of the story that has you hooked to the very last page. I shall say no more but if you're anything like me you'll need a box of tissues handy...

The Death House - Sarah Pinborough
ISBN - 9781473202320
Publisher - Gollancz
Release date - February 26 2015

Many thanks to Gollancz and Netgalley for a review copy!


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