The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

the children's homeSuffer the little children…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

Morgan was a beautiful young man but a terrible incident has left him so horribly disfigured he can no longer face the world. So he stays holed up in the house his grandfather built while his sister runs the family business that keeps them both wealthy. The only person Morgan lets see him is his housekeeper, Engel. But one day Engel finds a baby left outside the house. The two of them agree not to tell the authorities and so the child becomes part of the household. Shortly after, another child arrives, then another, until before long there are seven of them… and more keep coming. No-one knows where they’re coming from and the children never say, but Morgan is becoming convinced that these children have the power to appear and disappear at will. And soon it seems as if they’ve come for a purpose…

This book is brilliantly written. Mostly it’s in the third person and past tense, though there is a first person section when Morgan tells the story of his past. It reads like a kind of corrupted fairytale, perhaps Beauty and the Beast, and reminded me strongly of Shirley Jackson’s similar corruption of the old witch stories in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Not because of any similarity in story, but because of the unsettling tone of horror lurking beneath a seemingly bright surface.

Female Austrian Wax Teaching Model 1850. Creepy, isn't she?
Female Austrian Wax Teaching Model 1850.
Creepy, isn’t she?

The house is filled with books and strange curiosities Morgan’s grandfather sent back from his many travels abroad, and the children seem fascinated by these, as if they hope to learn some secret from them. The children are unnaturally well-behaved, even the babies, and unlike adults can accept Morgan’s disfigurement without being repulsed or pitying him. When one of the children becomes ill, the local doctor pays a visit and befriends Morgan, telling him a little of the world outside Morgan’s walls. It’s through this that the reader gets an indication that something terrible has happened to the world – something hugely destructive that has left people in fear and caused the rich to retreat behind heavily guarded walls.

I’m not going to say any more about the story since the not knowing is most of what creates the tension and rising apprehension. There are parts that are truly shocking and the writing is of such quality as to create some images that stay long after the last page has been turned. There are strong shades of John Wyndham here – I was reminded not only of The Midwich Cuckoos, but also of Chocky and The Chrysalids to a degree. Again, that’s not to imply any lack of originality – Lambert takes similar themes as Wyndham but treats them quite differently. It’s unclear whether these children’s purpose is to do good or evil in the world – there is a driven amorality about them. They are here to do what they must do and that’s all. Should they be loved? Or feared? Is it sci-fi? Horror? Fantasy? Lit-fic? Yes, to all of the above. It’s the first book for a long time that has had me gasping aloud in shock…

Charles Lambert
Charles Lambert

Lambert does not tie it all up neatly in the end – he leaves it beautifully vague allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. As a result, I expect it will be a different story for each reader – I was very aware that I was ‘writing’ my own interpretation of events under the author’s subtle guidance. After the horrors, is there any kind of redemption? Perhaps, perhaps not – it’s one that left me pondering and I still haven’t completely decided. Don’t let the horrors or the sci-fi elements put you off. This is a great read that packs a lot into its relatively short length of 224 pages – one of the most imaginative and original books I’ve read in a while. Highly recommended – I shall be looking out for more from this author.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Scribner.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

55 thoughts on “The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

  1. Oh that sounds sooooo cool, you know! Imagine if that happened to you, with all the children showing up, haha.

    And that doll is very creepy. Goodness. Ugh. *hides eyes*

    And I’m digging where Mr. Charles posed. Good choice, I say.

    • *laughs* The whole story would have been a flop, since I’d have been on the phone to the authorities first thing! And if that didn’t stop them coming, I’d have moved!

      Isn’t it? And yet not the creepiest thing in the book… *shudders*

      He looks like a pleasant chap, doesn’t he? Which is surprising, considering…

  2. This sounds fab! Stop reviewing excellent books I immediately want to read, please. it is playing havoc with my sensibilities. Haven’t you got any rubbish books to tell us about? It’s going on the list. The list that is now nearly novel-length itself. *sigh*

  3. Oh, this really does sound intriguing, FictionFan! I’m not usually one for horror (with a few exceptions), and limited in my taste for sci-fi. But this doesn’t really sound as though it fits in any one category very neatly. And the story itself sounds compelling. Hmm…..

    • Yes, I think the quality of the writing kind of lifts it above simple genre definition – a bit like I feel about Shirley Jackson. Though there are undoubtedly a couple of pretty horrific bits in this. But he doesn’t dwell on the gory details, if you know what I mean…

  4. You have left me so curious about this book. It better be at the library, or I will be sorely tempted to break my book-buying ban. Can you tell me whether any of the babies get abused, or will that be a spoiler? (If yes, then I don’t want to know.)

    • Hmm – not anything that we would normally think of as abuse – no sexual abuse or beating them. But (trying hard not to get too deeply into spoilers territory) it’s safe to say there are one or two fairly horrific scenes, one of which does involve the children – but then, are they children in the sense that we know them? *cue spooky music*

      I hate scenes of child abuse too, but this was OK for me in that sense…

  5. Me again. After I went off, I realised that I had read one of Lambert’s earlier ones “Any Human Face” – a slightly creepy arty, detective story – recommended.

  6. Well, this one sounds terribly interesting…and just a bit on the creepy side (though not nearly as creepy as that wax model!!) Thanks for an excellent review — doggone it, another one to add to my TBR!!

    • Ooh, it is as creepy as the wax model – in fact even creepier sometimes! And horrific occasionally – don’t say you haven’t been warned! But it’s done so well, it’s worth it… 😀

    • I’ve got a feeling this one might be one we’ll all be hearing about this year! I suspect you might enjoy this one, L Marie – it seems like your kinda thing, I think… 🙂

    • Thanks, Angela! 🙂 Originally England, though I understand he lives in Italy now. The book doesn’t really specify where it’s set, as far as I remember, but it feels like England – only not quite as we know it…

    • Theer are a couple of scenes in it that genuinely made me gasp out loud, and that will stay with me. It’s not that he goes into graphic detail – in fact, it’s what he doesn’t say that makes it so effective…

    • It’s not too gory or gruesome, but there are a couple of parts which are pretty disturbing – though fortunately not the kind of disturbing that usually happens to kids in books at the moment. It is very good though…

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