Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

The Death House
By Sarah Pinborough
Published by Gollancz (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473202320

Publisher's description
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 signs of sickness. Any signs of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanitorium.

No one returns from the sanitorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear.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.

My verdict
I couldn't wait to read this book, after reading the blurb on the back cover, and I was certainly not disappointed.

The Death House is set in the not-too-distant future, when blood tests determine whether or not children and teenagers are afflicted by an incurable disease. The disease has no name, no definitive symptoms. But if the children have markers of the disease in their blood, they are certain to die. The unknowns are when and what the symptoms will be.

As soon as a blood test is positive, all afflicted children are taken away from their families to a secluded house, which is nicknamed The Death House. The children there are monitored carefully by cold, emotionless nursing staff and teachers. When a child develops symptoms, they become an outcast and others distance themselves. Then when a child dies, they are taken in the dead of night to the sanatorium and the nursing staff remove all traces of the child's possessions, as if they were never there.

The Death House is a sensitive beautifully-written story. Whilst it focuses on relationships between teenagers, it's certainly no teen romance novel. It's a heartbreaking look at how children and teenagers cope when they know they have no future.

Most of the young occupants simply exist in the 'here and now', ignoring the past and what the future holds. Toby, however, finds it hard to let go. During the day, he tries to distance himself from the other occupants, whilst holding onto his memories of a normal adolescence. At night, he doesn't take his 'vitamins' from the nurses and, whilst everyone sleeps, he explores the house, in search of its secrets. When new girl Clara arrives, the dynamics within the house change. She shows Toby how to live life to the full while he still can, whatever the future holds.

The Death House is an amazing book, with a fascinating underlying story. And I was left thinking about it long after the final page.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


  1. This sounds like a brilliant read, now on my TBR list :)

  2. It really was brilliant - a day later and I am still thinking about it!