One more little secret
One more little lie…
When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For she lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…
As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.
A gritty, dark and harrowing psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all…
Hi and welcome to my review of The Home, the brand-new and long awaited Sarah Stovell novel, and one of my most anticipated books of the year! Sarah’s first book, Exquisite, was one of my first Orenda books, and I loved it to bits, so I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for The Home. Hugest of thanks to Orenda Books for the proof copy! I read it last month but I wasn’t able to squeeze the review into #Orentober, due to a fried brain and a full schedule, so let’s have a little #Orentober in November!
The Home is the story of Annie (15), Hope (15) and Lara (12), three girls in a home named Hillfoot House in the Lake District. It starts with a short pitch-black prologue that got me hook, line and sinker. Turning that first page, I knew I would adore this book at least as much as Exquisite. Sometimes you just know. And then the internal struggle commenced: the impossible choice between reading slowly, savouring each and every sentence (Sarah’s writing is exquisite, I love the flow of her words, their cadence, their darkness like a current simultaneously pulling you under and drawing you into the book) and racing through the novel to find out what happened on that fatal night, Christmas eve.
Christmas morning is when the present-day events in The Home kick off, with Lara all alone at the home, and Annie and Hope found by the water, one girl dead, one girl hysterical with grief. All three girls are in care because their parents are incapable of taking care of them. When Annie and Hope meet at Hillfoot House, it’s like they’ve found their twin souls, and quickly form a bond and venture from friendship into a sexual relationship. Throughout the novel, we learn what exactly is in these girls’ past and frankly, it did not just break my heart, it completely destroyed it. Fragile as Breakers and In the Absence of Miracles left it, it was not equipped for what The Home threw at it.
Without giving away too much, I can safely say The Home deals with quite a few difficult topics. Child neglect and
abuse, grooming, self-harming, mental health, the challenges of child
protection services, …
Child neglect and abuse are never easy to read about, but when the main characters are fifteen-year-old girls who have never known any better than neglect and abuse by the hands of their own mothers, it’s even worse, parents are supposed to protect their children, keep them from harm, not be the cause of mental and physical pain. Coming from a lovely and loving family, I can hardly imagine what children like Lara, Annie and Hope go through. Because that’s the thing: you know these kids are but figments of Sarah Stovell’s imagination, but there are lots of kids out there who have to live that kind of life and that destroys me. And then there’s the aspect of grooming, and its nefarious effects. Despite the lack of details, it made my stomach churn and my skin crawl.
So yes, it is dark, I think that’s rather obvious, but there is also love in The Home. Love between lost girls, love between sisters, love of carers, and most tragic of all, love of a child for a parent who has wronged them.
The Home’s narration alternates between the girls (with one of them speaking to us from beyond the grave and the other one dealing with the aftermath and the grief) and the home’s manager, Helen, which was a very interesting point of view as well because it sheds a light on child protection services, and the problems (financial and otherwise) they are faced with.
After turning the final page, I just sat there for a minute or two, holding on to the book, letting out a huge sigh in shock and astonishment, processing the finale. Out of all the scenarios I’d had considered, out of all the ways things could possibly pan out, the way it did never occurred to me for even a second.
It was a long wait, but The Home was worth every second! It is a harrowing, yet devastatingly beautiful tale. A tragic thriller that left me with a lump in my throat and a rock in my stomach. Highly recommended.
The Home is out in eBook format on 28 November and in paperback on 23 January. Pre-order on Amazon here.