ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – A Good House for Children by Kate Collins
A Good House for Children by Kate Collins will be published by Serpent’s Tail on 2nd March in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to Rosie Parnham for the proof copy.
The perfect place to destroy a family…
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.
The Reeve, a grand house on a cliff top in Dorset, welcomes families to live in it. It seems like A Good House for Children, with space to play and to grow. In this dual timeline story we learn that there is more to The Reeve than meets the eye.
In 2018, Orla and her husband, Nick, along with their children, Sam and Bridie, have moved to the house. Orla didn’t really want to move from Bristol but is persuaded by Nick that it will be good for the children and also an opportunity for Orla to get back to her work as a painter. More than 40 years earlier, in 1976, Lydia has moved to The Reeve as a nanny to four children.
Both women find the house has a strange and unsettling effect on them. They see and hear things that are impossible to explain and they, and the children, start to behave differently and at times, peculiarly. It is as though the house has tendrils that grow from it and stealthily envelop whoever lives there, insinuating its way into their minds and bodies.
I came to this book primarily because of the house and because I enjoy dual timeline stories. I stayed for the incredible writing, the mesmerising story and the compelling characters. It’s clear from the beginning that the house is a character in its own right and it unnerved me as I read the parallel tales of Orla and Lydia and the house’s effect on them. I don’t want to give anything away but the way the two narratives were woven together absolutely thrilled and fascinated me.
A Good House for Children is a tremendous debut from Kate Collins. It’s thoroughly immersive, not just the sinister atmosphere of the house but also the day to day details of the characters’ lives. I found myself so entranced by them all and I thought the story as a whole was perfectly told, linking the everyday and the extraordinary to great effect. I honestly loved this book and I can’t wait to see what comes next from Collins.
Kate Collins was born in Cork, Ireland and has spent her career in trade and academic publishing. She studied literature and medieval history at Lancaster University and went on to complete an Master’s degree in contemporary literature at the same university. She lives in Oxfordshire