September 20, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

A Good House For Children, By Kate Collins, Genre Bends Thriller And Horror- Review

A Good House For Children By Kate Collins- Summary

A Good House For Children Goodreads Summary (Review Below): Once upon a time, Orla a woman, a painter, a lover.

Now she is a mother and a wife, and when her husband Nick suggests that their city apartment has grown too small for their lives, she agrees, in part because she does agree and in part because she is too tired to think about what she really does want. She agrees again when Nick announces with pride that he has found an antiquated Georgian house on the Dorset cliffs—a good house for children, he says, with tons of space and gorgeous grounds.

But as the family settles into the mansion—Nick absent all week, commuting to the city for work—Orla finds herself unsettled. She hears voices when no one is around; doors open and close on their own; and her son Sam, who has not spoken in six months, seems to have made an imaginary friend whose motives Orla does not trust.

Four decades earlier, Lydia moves into the same house as a live-in nanny to a grieving family. Lydia, too, becomes aware of intangible presences in the large house, and she, like Orla four decades later, becomes increasingly fearful for the safety of the children in her care. But no one in either woman’s life believes the stories that seem fanciful, the stuff of magic and mayhem, sprung from the imaginations of hysterical women who spend too much time in the company of children.

Are both families careening toward tragedy? Are Orla and Lydia seeing things that aren’t there? What secrets is the house hiding?

A Good House For Children By Kate Collins- Review

Holy Horror! A Good House For Children is relentless. It’s both a thriller, mystery and bends into horror. There are 101 creep-fest moments throughout A Good House For Children. Personally, I enjoy thrillers that bend into the horror side. Kate Collins manages to balance all three without anything becoming lost. She doesn’t push the horror elements so much that it becomes a ploy. The mystery, thriller, and horror interweave beautifully.

Also, as I am noticing a trend lately, Kate Collins doesn’t tell the reader what to think. Instead, Kate Collins puts out her work and then lets the readers decide what is real and what isn’t. What is madness, and what is reality? I’ve now seen this more often across several genres, and I think it has been executed well. Other books that leave things to the reader are All These Bodies by Kendare Blake and Lay Your Body Down by Amy Suiter Clarke.

Hope in no small measure, is a dangerous thing, intoxicating, seductive. It leads us to places we don’t belong and causes us to knock on doors and unlock gates that would otherwise remain barred. Hope is a breadcrumb trail through a black wood.

When you read the summary, I think you expect The House to be more than just the setting. “The Reeve” should have a character all its own. And Kate Collins does not disappoint. “The Reeve” has life and presence even before unsettling events occur. It is instantly a menacing, lurking character. And then it just takes off from there once the women start experiencing unusual, terrifying ordeals.

ReviewThank you to Harper Audio and Mariner Books for the advanced audio of A Good House For Children by Kate Collins, which releases on July 4th.

Kate Collins also provides much fodder for thought throughout A Good House For Children. Themes about women and hysteria, the wrenching binds a mother feels for her children, and whether any of it authentically means something to others are touched upon. Each is delved into not with a heavy hand and not in an outright narrative. Instead, Kate Collins utilizes the events in the house and dialogue to bring these points around.

Finally, I have to mention Kate Collins’ writing style. It is perfectly suited for a thriller/horror-styled story. The flowing prose brings an additional sense of dread. Her most beautiful prose is during some of the most horrific events. However, it enhances that sense of dread. Kate Collins lulls you into a sense of serenity where there absolutely is NONE to be had. And that makes the hammer drop harder.

Orla started down the stairs and almost fell when something large thumped into one of the cathedral windows. It hit, high-up, near the apex of the window and dropped quickly out of sight. Then another, shaking the glass in its frame on the other side. A slender, black bird. She watched it break its neck and tumble. Another followed. Then two more in quick succession. Each bang shot a shock of adrenaline down her spine… and the dying birds left oily smears on glass that was aflame with setting sun. More birds followed. Too many to count. One by one they threw themselves against the windows. Those enormous, beautiful windows that snatched each bird and tossed them, broken, to the ground.

A Good House For Children By Kate Collins- Characters

A Good House For Children is told from two different points of view and two different timelines. First is mom and artist Orla in 2017/2018, then live-in nanny Lydia in 1976. However, and I want to make this point again, “The Reeve” is the paramount character in A Good House For Children. I’ll try not to repeat myself again!

Both Orla and Lydia are thoroughly explored and developed, as are the supporting cast of characters. Orla’s husband, Nick, is easy to hate as an overbearing husband. He doesn’t believe Orla, and it all adds up to someone you just want Orla to run from. But Orla is very well-defined, and her narrative reveals painful self-awareness. She doesn’t know what she wants, so she tends to let Nick lead.

However, as her character explores these behaviors closely, she realizes that she is as much to blame for Nick. For letting pieces of herself be chipped away over time until barely anything is left. It would be easy for Nick to just take the fall for it, but Kate Collins delicately balances how women sometimes give up their very being. Whether because of societal or marriage pressures, she knows she doesn’t stand up for herself.

One of the best pieces of the dual point of view/timelines is that Orla digs into the house’s history. She wants to confirm other tragic accidents that have befallen residents. And you know that the family Lydia works for is one of those stories. So playing the two characters off each other in this way adds a layer to the mystery. You don’t know which story is Lydia’s, and you don’t know the who.

A Good House For Children By Kate Collins- Final Thoughts/Audiobook

To be fair, I have been a fan of Kristin Atherton since listening to Things We Do To Our Friends. She knocks A Good Place For Children out of the park. She manages to capture everything from the frustration of motherhood, the fear of watching things spiral out of control, and ominous events. Additionally, she portrays Sarah (mom to the children Lydia watches), quickly changing emotional states perfectly. The timeline and point of view changes are labeled, making listening to the audiobook easy to follow.

You can’t go wrong with A Good House For Children. Kate Collins’ writing and how she threads together different genres make it a must-read.


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