The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

Wonderful, eccentric stray children fill a decaying country estate in this strikingly dark fairy tale.

children's home

Charles Lambert (With a Zero at Its Heart) offers a startling and adept blend of realism and frightening fantasy in The Children’s Home.

Morgan Fletcher lives alone, served by a housekeeper and a skeleton staff he purposefully never sees, on a sizable estate of fading opulence. He has been disfigured by a mysterious accident; his inherited fortune has equally enigmatic origins. His family history is only hinted at, but apparently contains ugly secrets. His housekeeper, Engel, seems comfortably wise to these difficulties, and when the country doctor, a “sunlike man,” befriends Morgan, he feels a little like himself again. The real difference, however, is the children, who show up one by one as if out of the air, some of them mere babies on the stoop. Morgan is wonderingly delighted to find himself surrounded by youngsters, whose playful noises echo often through the house, but who are strangely silent when he wishes for silence. These are not ordinary children, but Morgan has had no contact with the wider world for many years and is slow to question their behavior. They seem to seek something within his house and simultaneously seem to know his past already.

Lambert opens with plausibly lifelike scenarios and proceeds with careful pacing through the Fletcher family story. The line between reality and illusion is as imperceptible to the reader as it is to Morgan, until the final, otherworldly action accelerates with glittering vividness both lovely and grotesque. The Children’s Home is unforgettable: fanciful, chilling and poignant.

This review originally ran in the January 15, 2016 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 questions.

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