Book Review: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

This review contains minor spoilers.

I was one of the lucky few to receive an advance copy of The Death House from Gollancz. I had no idea it was coming, and ripped open the envelope to find a strange package.

It’s not often I can say that a book stays with me long after I’ve read the last page. But since devouring this novel, I’ve thought about little else. I want to know more, which is always a sign that the author has done a fantastic job.

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.

The Death House is a compelling, utterly unique novel, full of mystery and misery, yet with a strangely uplifting ending. It follows the story of Toby, who lives in the Death House with other children, and Clara, who arrives some months after him. Their night-time adventures and fleeting relationship makes for fascinating reading, and the utter sadness of the novel almost brought me to tears several times. But there is hope, and the ending is bittersweet.

I want to know more about the house, the children and why they’re there, and the nurses. I want to know what happens next. I simply want more. Pinborough is a brilliantly irritating (or irritatingly brilliant) author, with her ability to get inside your head and leave a lasting impression.

For an uncorrected proof copy, there were very few mistakes. The flashbacks to Toby’s “before” were in italics, which is something that irks me slightly, but it’s probably the only thing I can pick on, which is saying something. The edition that comes out in February will no doubt be flawless.

Put the release date of this book in your diary. Pre-order it. Queue up overnight if you must. But you simply must read this book.

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

The Death House will be released on the 26th of February 2015.

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