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The Death House by Sarah Pinborough - Review.

The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

Publication Date: 26th Feb 2015 from Gollancz

 

Source: Advance Reading Copy.

 

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 was a marvel of a read, beautifully emotional, so terribly addictive that I read it in one afternoon and just as a warning, will stomp all over your heart and make it bleed.

 

Toby lives in "The Death House". Taken from his family having tested positive for the "defective" gene, he spends his days sleeping and his nights wandering. In a place where death seems to be the only possible outcome, Toby has established himself as the leader of his small dorm group, going day to day and waiting for the axe to fall. When a new group of teenagers enter the house however, everything changes as Toby and his companions begin to start living...

 

I loved the ambience of this one - the kids live the Boarding School life - dormitories, meals, leisure time,lessons - but there is a creepy sense of menace hidden just below the surface. A careful watchfulness that comes across elegantly in the prose - a simple sniff attracting sidelong glances, ever wondering whether the sickness is about to descend and upon whom. There is a formed hierarchy amongst the occupants that ebbs and flows with the days, and for pages you can forget that this is anything other than a coming of age tale, then BAM something hits you right in the gut.

 

It is all the more intriguing because the threat is so elusive - No-one is clear on what exactly DOES happen to those who end up in the sanatorium, the sickness itself is ambiguous, but the weight of it, the seeming lack of hope, stays with you throughout. There are some very sad moments but there are also some very uplifting ones, reasons to laugh and reasons to cry.

 

The characters are, every single one, outstanding - you will care about what happens to them so much, even the sometimes unlikeable ones. I adored Will and Louis, I even liked Daniel. Jake is magnificent, Toby is captivating,  and Clara is so vibrantly alive that you ache for them and the thought that they may not have much time left.

 

Sarah Pinborough has once again managed to reject that thing which they call genre - everyone reading this gorgeously good story will take something different from it. For me I think it was an all emcompassing love story - not just romantic love but Love, in all its forms and with all its sacrifices, pain and joy.

 

Brilliant. All the stars in the world and a puppy for this one. Have the tissues handy!

Happy Reading Folks!