I’m delighted to be sharing my review of The Home by Sarah Stovell today as part of the blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan for the invite and for my review copy of the book.
What’s this book about?
When the body of pregnant, fifteen-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away.
As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.
A dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking and insightful portrayal of the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.
What did I think?
I adored Exquisite, Sarah Stovells debut novel, which was absolutely…well, exquisite! But it seems to have been such a long wait for her second book! Although now that I’ve read it I can forgive her anything because The Home is just as stunning. I read it in one afternoon, curled up on the sofa whilst being lazy during the last few days of the Christmas holidays. I couldn’t have picked a better book to devour in one session especially as there was no way I could put it down once I became entangled in the lives of three girls living in The Home as their heartbreaking backgrounds were slowly unravelled.
Narrated mainly by Hope and Annie, this tragic tale unfolds from the discovery of a body in a small churchyard. Why is a pregnant 15 year old girl laying dead with her friend crying beside her? What could possibly have happened to them to bring them to this distressing moment? Well, unfortunately, quite a lot. These girls haven’t had the sort of upbringing that every child is entitled to, they have been failed by the system. Helen, the manager in charge of the home, also adds her thoughts to the narrative but you can tell that she does what she can within a system that is all well and good in principle but is fighting budget cuts and poorly paid employees. As the girls slowly reveal what has taken place during their childhood, I just wanted to take them away at so many different points in their upbringing and place them in loving families so that they didn’t have to know things that no child should ever have to know. And I couldn’t help but get really angry!! Surprisingly not always at their mothers but also at all the people who saw what was going on but didn’t do anything. These girls were always one step away from a Serious Case Review and were failed by a system that should have protected them! I know this was a fictional story but this is really happening to our children and it just makes me so mad!! So I’m grateful to Sarah Stovell for opening people’s eyes to the abuse that is occurring still and exploring how the long term mental health of our children is being affected by this abuse and exploitation.
This book is heartbreaking in its honesty, beautifully written to evoke emotions in the most hard hearted of readers. I became completely immersed in the past lives of these girls as I watched them on their collision course towards each other and their inescapable fate. I was reminded at times of the film Heavenly Creatures staring Kate Winslet and based on the friendship between Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, that formed the catalyst for a notorious New Zealand Murder case-not due to similarities in the case but because of the intensity of their relationships with each other and with their mothers.
This is a dark and sometimes distressing book. It’s a psychological thriller but at its heart are themes of abuse, poverty and despair. It’s not an easy read due to those issues but it’s one that shouldn’t be missed. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Who’s the author?
Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times