The Children’s House by Alice Nelson Preview Reviews

The Children’s House by Alice Nelson Preview Reviews

Our second Better Reading Preview title was The Children’s House – a beautifully told hope-filled and outstanding novel about shared stories of displacement and trauma. Interested in what people had to say about this stunning novel? Take a look at our Preview reviews:

The Children’s House by Alice Nelson is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story of mothers and motherhood. Nelson has weaved many stories of loss and longing together to create this compelling novel. On the one hand we have Constance, a Rwandan refugee, mother of 2 y.o. Gabriel, struggling to survive after enduring unknown traumas in her home country. Alongside this is Marina, an academic and writer, attempting to settle with her psychoanalyst husband while coping with her longing for a mother and the loss of her brother. Marina’s mother Gisela was cold and aloof, was this a result of living in a kibbutz with the children raised in the children’s house? Rosa, Marina’s mother-in-law, was a very hands-on mother. Leni, Marina’s stepson’s, Ben’s, mother, also an absent parent. The caring of the nuns for those in Harlem and the older members of the order also have a mothering nature. The theme of motherhood runs through all the stories. Marina’s strong longing to be a mother and the lack of a caring parent affect her deeply. She devotes herself to her brother, Dov, then to her husband, Jacob and his son, Ben and eventually to Gabriel. There is also a strong feeling of despair in these stories. Can anyone compensate for what Constance endured? Can Marina overcome her despair? The book is very well written so it is hard to put down while the reader is finding the answer to these questions. I would highly recommend this book. – Annette, ACT

The Children’s House of the title is on a kibbutz in Israel where children are raised separated from their parents. This separation between parents, mothers in particular, and children is the theme of this book. Marina has spent a lifetime longing for her mother and is now longing to be a mother. Constance, Gizela and Leni are all mothers who have abandoned their children either physically or emotionally. Constance is damaged by the atrocities of war, Gizela by a loveless childhood and Leni by a spoilt, privileged upbringing. Then there is Rose, the matriarch, who gave up her dream because it could not include her children, and Vera mothering the old nuns and remembering her own mother. The strength of this book lies in the characters of these women and the way their stories effortlessly intersect. Alice Nelson has a wonderful ear for the rhythms of family life and a wonderful eye for detail. I love the painterly vignettes of New York life that add so much texture. It’s a beautiful, bitter-sweet read and will leave you contemplating the nature of motherhood and families and wanting to tell your children you love them! – Anne, NSW

Wow! What a novel! I have not read any other novels by Alice Nelson but after this novel I am definitely going to buy her other works. This novel took me on such an emotional journey. I felt like I was just another member in the family looking in on the generational trauma that occurred. My favourite character by far was Marina. What a woman! She had so much compassion for others and despite others disapproval continued to foster a relationship with Constance and Gabriel. This novel kept me so engaged as I learnt about the effect generational trauma has on families even after the passing of loved ones. Also reading about ‘Children’s Houses’ and what they were and the belief that this was the way to live, is so fascinating. Yet, what I loved most, is the author never places judgement or tried to sway the reader either way about whether Children’s’ Houses were right or wrong, but simply that they existed. I too loved the way the novel was set out in years so that you were able to shift from the past to the present. Initially it took me awhile to get use to the thread of this, but by the end I was enjoying this. This novel is so emotionally powerful and really resonated with me. Alice is clearly a talented writer. Thank you for bringing this story to life. – Katarzyna, VIC

A perfect choice for a book club novel. The Children’s House is a real conversation starter. The book transports you to points in our history that have changed destiny of many people. The book leaves makes you write the past and future of many characters, you begin to narrate a story unwritten for the characters. It was a moving book whee you feel compassion for the characters, analysing their psyche and motivations at each turn. You are also left marvelling at the true strength of human spirit and the pure will to survive and thrive against all odds. – Dianne, SA

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

This novel is more about the feelings of each characters and the emotional connection that the reader is able to make with them, rather than being narrated or centred around a series of events. Constance is a Rwandan refugee who struggles to develop a connection with her son. Meanwhile, Marina is a an Israeli women, who grew up with an emotionally absent mother. The concept of parental relationships and separation of mothers and children is a central theme of this book as Marina comes to terms with her lack of a mother and her relationships with Constance’s son, Gabriel. – Meg, VIC

Can the intense need for love and acceptance be fulfilled by someone other than the person you crave it from? The Children’s House is a story which reveals the reality and sadness life holds for those who have experienced difficulties in their relationships with others. Marina’s upbringing was not ideal. She survived the loneliness and uncertainty of a frequently absent mother alongside her brother Dov. When Marina meets Constance and her son Gabriel (refugees from Rowanda) she can’t help but notice the parallels between her early life and the child’s. Is it Marina’s need for love that urges her to continue the relationship with the pair, or is it the chance to rewrite her past? The main characters are unique and in contrast to each other. Marina is likeable, loving and loyal whereas Constance is distant, cold and broken. Alice Nelson explores how these two characters come together through their own experiences of sacrifice. Although at times heart-breaking, this book uncovers the true beauty and hope within relationships and connections with family, as we see through Marina’s relationship with her husband, step son and in-laws. – Priscilla, ACT

The Children’s House is an outstanding book creating bonds and trust, Marina and her husband Jacob have recently moved into Harlem they were both born in Israel, Marina meets a young refugee from Rawanda called Constance and her your son Gabriel a friendship forms and Constance comes to depend on Marina, this book is beautifuly written. – Deborah, NSW

Full of heartbreak and trauma, yet full of so much love and kindness. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this novel. I still stop and think about it every now and again, as the themes were written with such strength and clarity. – Julijana, ACT

The Children’s House was a story that grew on me the more I read, it was mystifying and intriguing. I found it hard to get into as the chapters were non sequential and jumped in time and place. The subject matter was difficult and confronting as the lives and relationships of the main characters have been shaped by traumas in their youth which can only be imagined. To enhance the feeling of dissociation most of the story is written in third person and we are slowly given small pieces of information in order to observe the lives of the various families. The language is beautiful but restrained “but she’s in me like a door banging a little in the wind.” One gets a feel for the characters even though they don’t give too much away “The clattering house of Jacob’s heart.” I found the Children’s House full of sadness and grief but in the end love reigns supreme. The Children’s House is a compelling story that does not ascribe to traditional happy endings. – Janelle, NSW

‘The Children’s house’ is a story of dysfunctional mothers and the repercussions this causes through the lives of their children. The story is broken into three different narratives: Marina – the writer; Constance – the Rwandan refugee and Vera – the nun (whose story is told to a lesser degree). The underlying theme of family and motherhood is told as the lives of these three women, and the families around them, are interwoven. The jumping backwards and forwards, for me, was a little jarring and the last chapter seemed less thought out than the rest of the book. – Donna, VIC

One of the lasting images from The Children’s House for me was Gabriel being dragged across the road trying desperately to keep his broken sandal on. This image stayed with me for days. This is a gently written book about tragic pasts and lots of mother’s trying their best for their children. My heart ached for Gizela, Constance, Leni and even Vera, the nun’s mother who all struggled with their past and couldn’t show the love to their children that their children craved. On the other hand was Marina who desperately wanted a child and couldn’t have one. Constance’s final decision for Gabriel was her way of loving him. This is a sad story about the scars of life. – Lisa, WA

Alice Nelson introduces her characters from across the world and draws the threads of their lives in Rwanda, Israel and California together to Harlem in New York City. The story of each of the characters is powerful and moving and flows smoothly to bring together a family based on hope, understanding and acceptance. Beautifully written with a story that stays with the reader. – Susanne, QLD

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

The Children’ House… One of the most moving, thought provoking novels I have read. Wanting to savour this book I kept delaying reading it as I did not want it to finish. Alice Nelsons portrayal of the characters makes me want to read more of her work. Each character had their own charm and/or complexities. I particularly liked the protagonist and the love and understanding between her and her husband. Being a mother I did find parts of the story very sad and emotional, but guess that “is life”. Would have liked more of the Rwandan mothers story ( perhaps in a second novel?) The Children’s House is one of the books that I am sure I can say i will never forget. – Maree, QLD


The Children’s House by Alice Nelson. I was looking forward to this but it didn’t reach my expectations. The writing is superb and the descriptions a joy to experience. Some were beautiful and some horrific, but all are utterly captivating. However I found the format rather confusing. Moving from one time and place to another was a frustration with no resolution until the very end of the book. Perhaps there could have been clues along the way. However it did evoke strong emotions about the plight of refugees and how their history leads to their despai and to sadness and searching among their descendants. The inability to show or receive love was a strong theme and one that we fortunate ones need to try to understand. As this was such a strong focus, perhaps this is the impact of the book rather than entertainment and in that case it is successful. – Robin, WA


“The Children’s House” by Alice Nelson is a beautifully crafted novel of love and loss, heartache and yearning. It tells the story of Marina ,her husband Jacob, and his son, Ben, their life in Harlem and their neighbourhood. Central to the story is the Rwandan refugee Constance and her young son Gabriel. All have a story to tell. Marina quickly bonds with toddler Gabriel, providing the mothering he seeks which Constance seems unable to provide. The characters are so finely drawn and heartbreakingly real. It is impossible not to resonate with Marina’s upbringing as a child of a kibbutz, removed from her mother’s love and care. Constance has her own demons as a refugee from the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide.The reader can only imagine what has led her to treat her son in such an offhand way. Woven through the novel is the sad history of the elderly nuns who used to live in Jacob and Marina’s brownstone. It is not until the last pages,when Marina’s family and Constance and Gabriel join her in her mother’s former home for Christmas that we learn of the ultimate consequence of this friendship. – Karen, QLD


This is a thoughtful book about abandonment and resilience. Marina, an author and scholar, is married to Jacob, a psychoanalyst and teacher, who has a son from a previous marriage. They meet in California as adults but move to New York. Both spent their very early life in a Kibbutz in Israel. The two families had a completely different upbringing once they were living in the USA. Marina and her brother Dov, an artist, were emotionally abandoned by their mother and after Dov’s suicide in Marina’s late teens she was also physically abandoned, (their father is mostly absent in the story), and Jacob, raised in a very loving family, a family who happily and naturally filled the emotional void for Marina. Marina then meets a refugee from Rwanda, Constance and her son, Gabriel. Constance is also physically and emotionally isolated and although looks after Gabriel’s physical needs does not connect with him emotionally at all. In time she depends on Marina who in turn fills the emotional needs of Gabriel, she shows great empathy for him. Constance then abandons him, leaving him with Marina and Jacob. Marina hears of her Mother’s death and makes a journey to her Mother’s home and with the help of a neighbour comes to terms with her life. It is an enjoyable book showing the need for empathetic human contact. – Gloria, SA


Let me first start by saying this is not the type of book I would normally read however I did enjoy it in the end. I also did not read Brooklyn to which this has been compared so can’t comment on this. To me the writing is quite beautiful however I found I had to go back a bit to check on things as I found it a little disconcerting how the author jumped from characters. Marina seems a very complex person and a deep thinker perhaps this has something to do with her family background, which you find out more of over a period of time. It is certainly very thought provoking of how people live in another world far removed from ours ..almost impossible to imagine really. Anyone interested in Jewish life will enjoy this book. – Susan, VIC


Sometimes the bond between a mother and child can be broken. The separation can be physical and/or mental. The Children’s House explores the effects of these broken bonds on both the child and the mother, and other family or friends who love them. As a child Marina and her brother Dov were brought up on a Kibbutz, separated from their parents. They lived in what was known as The Children’s House. As an adult Marina is still separated from her mother, is the step mother to a deserted boy, and becomes involved with a Rwandan refugee and her young son. The pattern of emotional separation repeats. Alice Nelson brings the story alive with her words. I could see and feel the heat of New York, the cold saltiness of Cape Cod. I felt the despair and yearning for love and touch and a place in family. The Children’s House was a beautiful read. One I would recommend wholeheartedly. – Daniella, QLD


As a first time mother, I found The Children’s House by Alice Nelson difficult to read at times but thoroughly enjoyable. It was an emotional, but eloquently written novel that spoke to me on many different levels. I found myself distraught at the choices some of the characters, in particular Constance the Rwandan refugee, had to make when dealing with separation from their children. There is also a strong sense of longing, despair and loss that runs as an undercurrent to the narrative, in particular Marina’s story, but also the bitter-sweetness of love and what motherhood is all about. This is a compelling read and one that is hard to put down. Nelson transported me to both New York and Cape Cod with her beautifully descriptive prose and I felt she dealt with longing and loss in a way that makes you want to go and tell your children and family that you love them. – Natalie, VIC


‘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


This is not a book that you can skim read while you are laying on the beach. You need to sit down and concentrate. There is a lot of detail in the book. Everything is described in great detail and it jumps between years. I could see that some people may love this style of writing. I found it a bit hard to get into and didn’t really find the storyline went anywhere. It is almost like there was so much time and effort put into painting a picture of what was happening, that the storyline was superfluous. – Kay, QLD


The Children’s Act is the story of Marina who was born on a Kibbutz in Israel and her relationship with a Rwandan refugee, Constance and her small son Gabriel. This book is a character driven novel, I think it would appeal to readers who like Ann Patchett novels. Marina is married to Jacob who has a son, Ben from his first marriage. Marina and Jacob do not end up having children of their own. Marina and Jacob move to Harlem where Marina befriends Constance and Gabriel and assists them at first in little ways like buying them groceries. As Marina learns more about what they have fled from in Rwanda she finds herself helping Constance and Gabriel more and more which leads to some tension with Jacob. I enjoyed reading about Kibbutz life, Jewish traditions and customs and about the Rwandan civil war. The structure of the book jumped between different time periods but I feel it would have worked better if the chapters were the perspective of different characters. I felt there was too much focus on Marina and not enough on Constance and that there was too much repetition about Marina’s relationship with her emotionally absent mother. – Elizabeth, QLD


Alice Nelson’s “The Children’s House” isn’t the kind of book I normally read but I’m glad I did. It’s a story about mothers & not having the greatest relationship with my mother I was drawn to this book. It’s a very emotional book about love & loss. Seeing the different stories of all the women & the different stories they have that are ultimately the same. This book made me think about my relationship with my mother a lot. Highly recommend this book. – Terry, NSW


The Children’s House is a very emotional book. It took me a while to get into it and work through the story, but once I grasped how the characters are interwoven and drawn together I really enjoyed the book. – Keryn, SA


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 an enjoyable read comparing women who have experienced different forms of trauma, and how it effected their role as mothers and how they were able to relate to their children (or not). It made me realise how little I knew about the Rwandan atrocities. The plot timelines were merged skilfully with hints given as to what happened to some characters but reasons given not fully understood. This was a book that was enjoyable to read in parts but pulled the heartstrings and demanded empathy. Recommended. – Sue, WA


It took me a while to get interested in this book but once I did I thought it was great. The main character was Marina who had along with her brother Dov had been virtually rejected by their mother after the father’s death. This perceived rejection could have been because of the inability of Gizela to show love. The ‘The Children’s House’ didn’t become apparent until the story of the Israeli kibbutz was understood. Constance also was unable to show love to her son Gabriel but for different reasons. The Friday night dinners every week were a tradition and showed what a family could be. Apart from a haven for Constance and the fact that the nuns owned Marina and Jacobs house previously, I failed to see the relevance of them. – Vivien, ACT


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


I really enjoyed reading The Children’s House, although I did find difficult at times, some of the characters acted in ways I didn’t like but it always felt real. Alice Nelson is an accomplished writer and her book is very human. At times it is rather sad but there is a vein of hope running throughout that made me want to see how it all ended. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a story of life, in particular immigrant life, with all of its ups and downs and side trips in between. – Jeannine, NSW


This book was an intense, detailed read, I found the characters haunting with emotions dealing with their past, great sights on mother/daughter relationships, great read. – Justine, QLD


I thoroughly enjoyed Nelson’s descriptive writing style, the language she used was expressive and romantic. She has a great, poetic way of setting the scene which really allowed me to place myself in those streets of Harlem and watch the story unfold. The characters were diverse and held my interest with their own respective stories. It was an easy and light read with plenty of detail. The book was not the usual genre I would choose to read but I am glad I did. – Ashleigh, QLD


The Children’s House takes a look at loss and displacement; healing and humanity. Unfortunately a lot of people will relate to some of the characters experiences of being ripped from all you know. Those who don’t have a chance to empathise, thanks to this wonderfully written books evocative telling of its tales… Constance has her own private horrors she’s hidden away, that we never hear of. Marina has a secure family with her husband and stepson, but behind the scenes the effects of the past can affect the present. I loved how Marina wrote about Romani’s, and the symbolism (especially as a Jew writing about the second largest group of people targeted by The Holocaust) of a nomadic life. I felt the book was a bridge between all of the travellers through life’s traumas; and showing how life and love go on... – Ayesha, NSW

I really enjoyed this book. It covered current hot topics and wove them into a story that was both well written and easy to read. – Jodie, WA

In Alice Nelson’s The Children’s House, we meet the most central character Marina who shares her memories of being born into a kibbutz in Israel, to moving to New York with her brother and her disengaged mother as a child, to living in Harlem in the late 1990’s as an adult, with her loving husband, Jacob, and his son, Ben. A strong entourage of characters also speak to us through this novel. Ben, having also experienced an absent mother as a small child, develops a special relationship with Marina, as does Constance and her young son Gabriel, refugees from Rwanda. While Constance is tied to Sister Vera who lived in the old brownstone house before Marina and her family moved in. Each character’s own intertwined story of loss and love, and the physical and character descriptions of Rwanda, Harlem, New York and Truro are beautifully described by the author, and allows the reader to become enchanted by The Children’s House. This book was a delight to read and thank you to Better Reading for the chance to preview this novel before publication. – Amanda, SA

While I struggle with books that jump backwards and forwards once I got used to that I really enjoyed the book. It was beautifully written and I grew to love and feel for the character Marina. When I finished the book it left me wanting more. To know more about what happened after the day on the beach and what happened in the years that followed. Would recommend to people who enjoy a great read that tugs at the heart strings. – Nikki, SA

‘The Children’s House’ by Alice Nelson is a skillfully written novel that explores the brokenness and grief of displaced persons and the sometimes tragic consequences of individuals who are forced or compelled to, leave the countries of their birth. From the elderly Irish missionary nuns, to the Kibbutz-born Jacob and his second wife Marina, and the young mother and infant son fleeing the atrocities of Rwanda, a fascinating story is woven inter-connecting the various characters and the sometimes heart-breaking circumstances from which they have emerged. Set in and around New York in the late 1990’s, the novel’s intense, somewhat mysterious opening chapters are gradually unraveled as the backgrounds and histories of each of the characters are revealed and questions resolved in the final pages. The author shows great depth of understanding of and sensitivity to the human condition enabling the reader to enter into the experience of each character. This story will touch a nerve with most Australians, many of whom have a strong connection to another land and a longing to recreate a piece of that past in their present in the search for that place of peace, safety and happiness. – Annamarie, SA

The book is beautifully written with such a depth of character development. It is emotional, with a wealth of knowledge shared about the effect of the Israeli kibbutz and war on relationship and particularly, motherhood. It is an engaging novel that draws the reader in and immerses them into time and place. I did find that the flicking of time backwards and forwards and between characters within the one chapter confusing at times. Particularly, as the story is told by three different women – Marina, Constance and Vera. It is a highly recommended read. – Brenda, NSW

Alice writes gracefully about interlaced lives. She writes with empathy about families, their troubles and traumas. This is a beautiful and thoughtful book about love and hope. – Aida, NSW

In her novel, The Children’s House Alice Nelson takes us on a captivating journey dealing with the struggles of grief, displacement, and identity. The Nuns leaving their life in Ireland; Marina, Jacob, and their extended families leaving the Kibbutz; Constance’s journey out of War-torn Rwanda and Alma fleeing El Salvador all bare a similar resemblance, one that they are unaware of due to internal struggles and silence. Each character struggles with grief, abandonment, a longing for a life they once lived and a concern for the future. Yet, the author provides a sense of hopefulness and shows that joy can be found in the simplest of things: a garden bed or a game of scrabble. The different lives are woven together like an intricate quilt showing that a relationship or event has the power to shape our lives. A disconnect between a mother and child can generate the need for love or a willingness to help others. The Children’s house shows the importance of community, identity and the offer of a cup of tea. It is an enthralling read which will leave you wanting more. – Marissa, NSW

The Children’s House, by Alice Nelson, is very much a character study. The “children’s house” of the title refers to the upbringing in an Israeli kibbutz of Marina – a writer and academic, who grapples with memories of a mother who lacked maternal instinct, and of her brother, who committed suicide some years before. Her life changes drastically when she encounters young Rwandan refugee, Constance, and her young son, Gabriel. Having not been blessed with a child of her own – but stepmother to her husband’s son, Ben – Marina sees in Constance traits she saw in her own mother. Constance seems not to be able to mother her son; Marina feels strongly that she can and should help. Her desire to care for little Gabriel has the capacity to get out of hand and, despite Constance’s seeming disinterest and love for her child, he is still her son. How this will play out is central to the story. Constance’s background and perspective is also covered – although her life in Rwanda is (perhaps blessedly) not looked at in great detail. The impact of same, however, is clear. The decisions she makes she believes are for the best – and it is easy to understand why she does so. A third character – elderly nun Vera – is introduced later in the book, and her interactions with Constance and Gabriel add another perspective to their stories. Effectively the “head nun” of their group, Vera has had to make tough decisions for the good of the convent, and these have weighed greatly on her. Family – what it is, how it works and what it can become – connects all three main characters. All are women with difficult choices and pasts to reconcile with, and the book gives readers insight into how each one manages same. I found The Children’s House very enlightening, particularly in terms of the Jewish faith, and the experiences of those who were caught up in the Rwandan genocide. I especially enjoyed the author’s description of late 90s Harlem – it seemed as much a character in the book as others. An enjoyable read, particularly if you appreciate literary prose, and books with multiple narratives. – Emma, VIC

A story of suffering through childhood and how people deal with such in different ways as adults. Took a while for the boo kto keep my attention, the jumping backwards and forwards was a little disconcerting. – Caroline, QLD

The Children’s House by Alice Nelson is not the type of book that I would usually be drawn too however overall I was pleasantly surprised. The storyline in general was captivating and left you wanting more. It was interesting to see how all the characters intertwined and connected throughout their individual journeys. I enjoyed Nelson’s descriptive nature for each character and really brought the characters to life. There were certain areas where I found difficult to follow and the flow of language used was hard to distinguish – which could also be blamed on my concentration level at the time. It is definitely a book that I’d love to see made into a motion picture in the future and have recommended to friends and family they add this book to their reading list. – Stacey, QLD


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            2 October 2018

            Subtle, Brave and Original: Review of The Children's House by Alice Nelson


              Marina, 'the gypsy scholar' a writer and academic and her psychoanalyst husband Jacob were each born on Kibbutzes in Israel. Their families moved to America when their children were young. When they meet at a university in California, Marina is a grad-student and Jacob is a successful practitioner and teacher and has a young son, Ben, from a disastrous marriage. The family moves to a brownstone in Harlem, formerly a small convent and shelter run by nuns.Marina has a loving relationship with Ben but has not been able to conceive her own child. Constance, a young refugee from Rwanda, who knows the house from when the nuns occupied it, comes to rely on Marina's growing attachment to and care for her son, Gabrielle.After dropping out of college Ben is unmoored and comes to work at the local grocery store where he befriends a young woman who is an undocumented immigrant. After learning that Gizela, Marina's long disappeared mother has died, Jacob and his tight knit loving family, Ben and Alma, Constance and Gabrielle all join Marina in her mother's former home to celebrate Christmas, coming together, and the unusually structured family they have formed.Alice Nelson skilfully weaves together these shared stories of displacement and trauma into a beautifully told hope-filled and outstanding novel.
              Alice Nelson
              About the author

              Alice Nelson

              Alice Nelson is an award-winning author. She is the recipient of the T. A. G. Hungerford Award and the "Sydney Morning Herald" Best Young Australian Novelist of the Year award.

              Books by Alice Nelson


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              1. Loudon Cleary says:

                Hated this pretentious book by a spoiled Westerner, exploiting refugee stories for profit. The only character in whom the author shows any real interest or understanding is the narrator, clearly the author herself. The cardboard-cutout refugees are just there as fashionable PC window dressing, to justify and sell this rambling self-focused book.