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The Children’s House: Your Preview Verdict

October 4, 2018

The Children’s House by Alice Nelson is a Better Reading Preview title, meaning that a handful of lucky readers were able to review the book before anyone else! The Children’s House is a hope-filled novel exploring the profound consolations that we can find in each other, and Preview reviewers have been giving it a lot of praise, describing the book as heart-wrenching, emotionally powerful, and mystifying. From every twist and turn of the characters’ lives, to the novel’s well painted scenes and big, warm heart, The Children’s House stands out as one of the finest and most deeply rewarding reading experiences of 2018. Just look at these reviews!

The Children’s House is a gently lyrical, slowly unfolding tale of lives lived, lost, suffered and survived. We meet Marina, a writer in New York, who accidentally, providentially encounters Rwandan refugee, Constance and her young son, Gabriel. What follows is a complex web of lives not lived, of turns not taken and of hopes lost. We glimpse life, and death, in the swamps of Rwanda during the genocide, an Israeli kibbutz and it’s children’s house, a last home for nuns in decline, all incidentally bound to one woman. Marina is scarred by her own dysfunctional childhood, but striving to make some sense of what seems to be an increasingly senseless world of horrors and sadness. Witness Marina as she navigates her world, all the while trailing hope and redemption in her wake. Alice Nelson creates an evocatively sad and melancholic tale which still manages to reward its characters and readers alike. This story is rich and complex, and like a fine whisky, should be savoured. – Isabella, TAS

Wow! This story had me in tears a couple of times. We all have that inherent need to be loved, to be held, to be wanted. This novel explores this issue at such a deep level. I really connected with Marina and the relationship she developed with Gabriel. They both had that need and were able to give it to each other and fill that emptiness. It was interesting to learn Constance’s story and it helps you understand why she did what she did. It was difficult to read about Rwanda but it was so important for the story. This is a beautifully written story and it was so easy to become immersed in their lives.I read in 3 sittings as I couldn’t put it down. I also loved Marina and Jacob as a couple, so in love with each other. Thank you Alice Nelson for a book that will forever be included in my must read list. – Michelle, VIC

Powerful, intangible maternal love links the lives that are interwoven through countries, cultures and ages in this novel. All are stark in their contrast, but all share that common ground. Motherhood is expressed through love and loss, grief, by memories, absence, circumstance and by nature versus nurture. The love of a mother is pure, deep, complicated, painful at times, not perfect or whole, sometimes left unresolved and with longing for what might have been.. All these factors will have a lasting impression on the life of the child. Lives that left me thinking about long after I had closed the book. – Ann-Maree, NSW

‘The Children’s House’ is a wonderful novel about belonging and finding your place of comfort in the world – the need for an anchor – your family, your home. The book is beautifully written and the characters are exquisitely drawn with great depth of feeling which allows the reader to develop absolute empathy with each one. Alice Nelson’s ability to draw comparisons and illustrate similarities between the lives of people across cultures and across time is superb. At the core of the novel is the importance of generational continuity and the feeling of being adrift when this is missing. Alice Nelson describes so poignantly the importance of family history in the formation of a personal identity. We all have great curiosity about the lives of our parents and those who have gone before us, and Alice Nelson expresses this perfectly when she writes of one of the characters, “She could see in him the fascinated awareness of lives that existed before he did, his delight in the symmetries between his father’s childhood and his own.” I was completely captivated by this book and would recommend it highly. Thanks to Better Reading and Penguin Random House Australia for the ARC. – Charlene, WA

The Children’s House, by Alice Nelson [Penguin Random House 2018] is an intelligent examination of both the effects of collective child rearing on an Israeli kibbutz, and the effect of war and trauma on mother/child relationships. It also investigates the good – and the harm – that one does when wanting to help another. There is psychological depth here – not only in the way Nelson explores each of her characters’ psyche, but also in her recognition of the meaning, power and importance of silences. Nelson writes beautifully, and her characters are complex and captivating, each attempting to erase part of their history to make way for new lives but not quite succeeding, because the wounds are still too fresh. In a lesser writer’s hands such topics could easily become depressing, but in Nelson’s hands loss, longing, despair, exile and the fallibility of memory are thoughtfully dissected, then reassembled to create the poignant story of a family that, despite each member’s vulnerability, is filled of love, support, and hope. The Children’s House is a truly interesting book, and I will be looking out for more of Alice Nelson’s work. – Dominique, SA

Read all Preview reviews of The Children’s House here

Read our full review of The Children’s House here 

Purchase a copy of The Children’s House here 


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