The Reeve stands on the edge of the Dorset cliffs, awaiting its next inhabitants. Despite Orla’s misgivings, her husband insists this house will be the perfect place to raise their two children.
In 1976, Lydia moves to Dorset as a nanny for a family grieving their patriarch. She soon starts to hear and feel things that cannot be real, but her bereaved employer does not listen when Lydia tells her something is wrong.
Separated by forty years, both Lydia and Orla realise that the longer they stay at the Reeve, the more deadly certain their need to keep the children safe from whatever lurks inside it…
Nothing is quite what it seems at the Reeve, and with its pervasive atmosphere of claustrophobia and dread, Kate Collins’ gothic creation will chill you to the core.
Hi and welcome to my review of A Good House for Children!
I stumbled across A Good House for Children and found myself unable to walk away. It was the discrepancy between the title and the tagline that piqued my interest first and foremost: it’s a good house for children AND the perfect place to destroy a family?! How does that work, what type of story might I find behind that rather innocuous cover?
Answer: a fabulously atmospheric haunted house ghost story that works like a charm! Francine Toon (author of Pine) makes the comparison to Shirley Jackson, and I really do think that is rather apt. On Goodreads, A Good House for Children is catalogued as horror and gothic. It is most definitely gothic, so if gothic tales are your cup of tea, especially those involving spooky Victorian houses, hurry up and put this one on your TBR! Horror, yes, but maybe more in a horroresque domestic thriller drama way. If you’re looking for an explicit, fast-paced, possibly gory sort of book, this is not that. This is an atmospheric, slow-burning, subtle, quiet type of speculative story that you must allow the time and space to creep under your skin. But creep it will, you mark my words!
A Good House for Children is told from the perspectives of artist, mum and wife Orla in 2017-2018 and nanny Lydia in 1976. However, I daresay the most important character in this book is an inanimate one (or is it…): the Reeve, their mansionesque home in Dorset. The Reeve has a history and it’s fair to say it keeps repeating itself.
I mentioned slow-burning and this really is a slow-burner but this is the type of book that begs for that kind of build-up, place setting and character development. It’s intriguing from the start and in its own manner it is very exciting because you get to bear witness to the gentle decline of these characters. The author’s note mentions that “reeve” is a Dorset word meaning “unravel” and that is exactly what you see happening to the families in this house, and you can even feel it’s what is imminent before anything out of the ordinary actually happens.
A Good House for Children is a highly accomplished debut and I already know I will pick up whatever Kate Collins comes up with next. I love her writing style and there are several paragraphs I read more than once because I so admired them.
I had a great time with A Good House for Children and if insidious ghost stories are your bag, I’m sure you will too. Recommended to fans of the genre.
A Good House for Children is out on 2 March in digital formats, audio and hardcover, with the paperback to follow early next year.
Massive thanks to Serpent’s Tail and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.