The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

2015-03-15 19.01.04Upon arrival I was expecting a bit of a gore fest from the title and cover like saw or hostel & to be honest being a fan of Sarah’s work I would not have been surprised. (spoiler alert:) it is not like any of these, maybe next time?

“They say it makes your eyes bleed. Almost pop out of your head then bleed.”

But don’t get me wrong this book is certainly chilling, just more psychologically than visually. There is certainly something creepy about an old school matron, lacking the softness or sexiness of a nurse, just tough, controlling and emotionless. Matron is the mistress of the house bringing fear to the children & staff with the sanatarium looming for any insolence.

“I wait, tense, for another ten minutes or so before I hear the door handle turn and the soft shuffle of soles as she checks each bed. The last round before morning. Only after she’s gone do i open my eyes and breathe easy.”2015-03-15 18.59.48

The death house is a tired eerie manor house seemingly on a remote dystopian island accommodating children who have been tested to have a defective gene. Taken from their normal home lives with their parents the children are placed into dorms. Yet despite knowing death is close and inevitable, the teens (mainly boys) are still very competitive, bullish and aggressive.

Toby, our narrator is the leader of dorm 4 is understandably pessimistic and only seems to thrive on control and competition. He is altogether a very gloomy protagonist for a good part of the book. This is until another female is brought into the house and Tobys priorities begin to change. The way Sarah describes Tobys feelings from a male pov experiencing sexual ardor for the first time is incredibly spot on and realistic, especially from a female writer.

“Even though I’m freezing, just touching her gives me a semi. I can’t help it. I wonder how girls manage to switch the sex stuff on and off. How do they control it?”

So how do they? Im hoping Sarah maybe answers this for us in her next book. The Death House is storytelling of macabre but also beauty.

“We’ll go into the earth.’ she says. ‘And then our atoms will race around the world together, completely free.”

My fondness for Pinborough’s unique style of horror continues to grow as does the quality of her literature. Her best so far.


The Death House by Sarah Pinborough published by Gollancz

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This is an exceptional, contemporary, heart-breaking novel.

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.

You can learn more about Sarah Pinborough, or by following @SarahPinborough on twitter.


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