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review 2016-02-12 22:42
The Death House by Sarah Pinborough
The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

T I T L E: The Death House
A U T H O R: Sarah Pinborough
P U B L I S H E R: Titan Books
P U B L I S H--D A T E: September 1, 2015
I S B N: 9781473202320
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Literature fiction (adult)

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Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear.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.

So wow. Where to begin? This novel about children of various ages had me weary to begin. I don't normally read book about kids, and I most definitely stay clear books about . . . (M O R E)

Source: www.wordgurgle.blogspot.com
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review 2015-10-31 10:24
A book ill-served by its cover - The Death House by Sarah Pinborough
The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

One of my pet hates is books which are misrepresented by their covers and blurbs. A book cover is a visual language. It tells the ideal reader THIS is the book they want to read; THIS is what their life has been missing. It tells them about the others books they've enjoyed and lets them know THIS book is going to be just as good, MAYBE BETTER. Misrepresentation only leads to tumult of poor reviews from those expecting something distinctly other than they got. 

 

Sixteen-year-old Toby lives in The Death House with the other Defectives. Presided over by Matron and her team of nurses, the children of the house are watched carefully for symptoms of their illness - a runny nose, shaking limbs - when they will be taken upstairs to the sanatorium. Nobody ever returns.

 

From the blurb, the cover and the title, I could be forgiven for expecting something sinister and creepy. Instead, I got a largely gripping young adult novel which had me initially pleased it had been so badly represented (because otherwise I wouldn't have picked it up).

 

The Death House begins with the arrival of new Defectives to house, including the rare spectre of a girl: Clara, who has red hair. Where Toby is angry - at his role as patriarch to the younger kids in his dorm, at the theft of his life - Clara is bright, like her red hair, vibrant, like her red hair, and a source of annoyance to the despairing teenager. The previously divided community is mended by red-headed Clara's manic pixie dreamgirlish red hair, the older boys playing nicely with each other in an attempt to impress her.

 

Which is what this book is, really: a love story about children who are having to cope with their imprisonment and imminent death. I find I like the idea of it more than I ultimately liked the book. What's there is kind of shallow, and repetitive. I can think of other books which do this far better.

 

I think what frustrated me the most was the lack of worldbuilding. By the end I was reading madly, eager to find out more about the world, but I was to be left disappointed. The sci-fi/dystopian/whatever-you-want-to-call-them elements of the book play a firm second fiddle to the emotional story of the characters. This can be done well - think of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go - but where Ishiguro drip-fed specifics to allow an understanding of his world and how it worked, Pinborough doesn't bother. The Defectives are never explained. What they are, what they will become, the place of The Death Houses in UK society ... all remains unexplained. I'm guessing when I say this follows Ishiguro's lead in being an alternative world rather than a near-future-dystopian.

 

In Never Let Me Go, there is a reason for the house the characters are brought up in - it's the sort-of the point of the book - but with Pinborough's Death House, I just wonder why anybody would bother with this set-up. Why make a pretence at continuing their education? Why not just euthanise them? The question is touched on but so indirectly that I wonder if the answer is Pinborough's or mine. 

  

Clearly The Death Houses are a Thing in Toby's world - on the day he is taken he notices the empty streets, only appreciating why when he is ushered into the van waiting outside his house - yet he offers no information about them. Another character indicates there are several of the houses around the country, so it's not as though it's only a dozen children a year who are found to be Defective. What place do they occupy in this world? By concentrating on the love story, Pinborough has abandoned lore to an annoying degree.

 

Then there is Matron, the faceless autocrat, whose eye the children avoid drawing lest they find themselves come for in the night. She is ridiculously two-dimensional. Without any wider context, I'm again having to make guesses why she makes the decisions she does and really, the best I come up with is stupidly over-simplified.

 

Overall, I sort of enjoyed it. The Death House is a fast read and one I stayed up to finish, but in the end what it offered was not what I wanted, nor what I enjoy. I honestly don't know why this isn't marketed as Young Adult, unless it's because this is a British book which involves British teens doing what I, obviously, was far too well brought up to engage in at that age. I'd cautiously recommend it, but you may be left feeling unsatisfied.

 

3.5 stars.

 

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review 2015-05-01 00:00
The Death House
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.


“I’m not afraid”

Ouch! That took me by surprise! I adore Sarah Pinborough's work especially the Thomas Bond series so I came to the Death House unprepared for this deeply moving book of love, life, friendship and death.

Beautiful, effortless writing and a story, best taken at face value, I tried not to dwell too much on what came before the sickness, or any of the other speculative aspects. It was a distraction and you can ponder preceding events after you have finished the novel.

Stunning....*mops tears*
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review 2015-04-23 14:17
The Death House by Sarah Pinborough
The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

Extremely well written, this book was told from the first-person by Toby and was narrated in the present tense, interspersed with narrative at the end of some of the chapters about the time before current events.

 

I didn’t know what to expect from this when I picked it up, all I knew is that I’d been grabbed by the synopsis which explained that Toby, the protagonist, had a normal life until it suddenly became unravelled by a blood test. The results of this blood test lead to him being taken from his family and put in a facility, nicknamed The Death House. The Death House is a place that houses young people who have tested positive on their blood test and they are monitored for any sign of sickness.

 

The synopsis lead me to believe that this would be a chilling book and it was, but not in the way I had expected. I thought that the chills would come from a story riddled with suspense, but instead it came from the characters and their predicament. It was, then, a predominately character-driven book.

 

Not far into this I was slightly disappointed to find that it was a very different book to what I’d presumed and I was nearly going to put it down, but I’m very glad I didn’t because it did improve. Toby was very astute for his age and while I didn’t love him and did feel a bit distanced from him, I enjoyed spending time with him.

 

For a large portion of the book not much happens and we instead learn the dynamics of The Death House and the interactions between its residents, specifically Toby and a girl. What I really liked about this book is how the reader felt as clueless as Toby and his friends about the situation they were in. Instead we learned how they dealt with it all, specifically through relationships.

 

During the last quarter of the book more starts to happen and it’s worthwhile to continue if you do consider giving up, as I did. There was a surprise ending and while it did feel a bit rushed, it was well done.

 

Easy to follow, this predominately character driven story wasn’t what I had in mind when I first picked it up, but I’m glad I read it and will check out the author in future.

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text 2015-02-28 00:23
The Death House
The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

(I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I resent the comparison with The Fault In Our Stars, because The Death House was more readable: Toby, for all his faults, wasn"t so insufferable, probably because he behaved like a somewhat surly, but all in all normal teenager. And Clara was enjoyable, with a positive look on what happened to her, even though she knew how all the kids at the Death House were doomed to end.

I wouldn't deem this the best novel ever. It left me wanting for more explanations. However, as a character study, at least for the main ones, it fairly hit the spot for me. The children and teenagers in that strange house all had to cope with their fear (and prospect) of dying in their own ways, andI thought we got to see quite a few interesting examples. Ashley, the believer kid who finds strength in the Bible and tries to share it with others. Toby, retreating into himself and pretending he doesn't care, yet still takes very much care of the younger ones. Louis, both extremely intelligent, though still a child in many ways. Will, all innocent and carefree, thus hiding his fears from himself. Clara, who had to live to her parents' expectations, and oddly enough was somewhat "freed" by the house. Jake, disguising his own fear behind his bully attitude.

Those were interesting portrayals, and through their interactions, we got to see how days and nights were spent in that microcosm that so much looked like a boarding school of sorts, yet was anything but—shadowed as it was by the mysterious sanatorium that none of the kids ever got to see, only hearing about it, only knowing one of them had been taken there when they discovered that child's belongings being gone in the morning. And the presence of the Matron and the other silent nurses only made the pressure worse.

True, not much happens in terms of plot-twists during the largest part of the novel. It was still a nice read nonetheless. The ending was a 50/50: part of me expected it to be different, more original... but at the same time, the other part thought it couldn't (and shouldn't, anyway) have been otherwise.

I didn't rate this book higher because in the end, too many things weren't explained, and they kept bothering me, try as I might to ignore them. The "Defective gene", for starters, was rather sketchy. How came the kids displayed so many different symptoms, and what was it suppose to lead to? Would it turn them into monsters of sorts, as was hinted at a couple of times? The kids were isolated like freaks, carried away in vans by men in dark suits, as if to protect the world from them; in my opinion, this would have warranted more than a few vague hints about the exact nature of the Defectiveness.

The same applied to the nurses and to their behaviour, especially considering a specific twist. Why would they hide it, and try to hush it? Out of fear it would go public? An actual reason would have been nice here.

Also, most of the twists were fairly obvious. It may be just me, I don't know. I just guessed pretty early where they were leading.

One aspect of the book I can't decide about were the other kids. While the characters I listed abover were indeed interesting, the rest were more like cardboard figures (even Tom, who got to share Dorm 4 with Toby and the others), which was weird in such a close space where I would've expected everyone to know everyone else. However, this fitted Toby's tendency to close his eyes on his surroundings, and increased the feeling that each child was on his/ her own, and that at the end, they couldn't afford to care about the others, only themselves.

Overall, I was leaning towards "I like it". However, the lack of explanations, and the somewhat bland figures of the nurses and some of the kids, left me feeling that something was missing.

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