- Book: The Home
- Location: The Lake District
- Author: Sarah Stovell
First of all, examine closely the delicate and rather beautiful book cover. Orenda Books (publisher) invariably create a subtle and eye catching cover for each of their titles.
The eponymous Home of the title is a care home for juvenile girls. It is in a remote part of the Lake District and has the threat of closure hanging over it. To my mind it would be a foreboding slate and flint edifice, grey and unforgiving, pointy and Gothic, typical of some of the more dour vernacular of the area. Hills and swirling mist….
The focus of the story is on Annie and Hope. As the book opens one is found dead in the local churchyard, the other is huddled over the body, distraught. Their story and why it came to this is cradled against the backdrop of the short lives of several of these young women, now in care. It is at times a very raw read.
It is so clear that the author feels passionately about the deprivation and abuse that goes on all around us in 21st Century Britain. She highlights via her novel that the facilities, money and support network are no longer really working. In the girls’ backgrounds are abuse, prostitution, violence, drugs, infanticide and familicide and neglect. How can any child hope to lead a normal and fulfilling life when their early, first-hand experiences have been so terrible? Childhood experience colours an individual for life.
One of the characters living at the home has a pronounced fascination with death; another observes proceedings from beyond the grave. The veil of death and low value of life cast a long shadow over the book.
The construct of the narrative is interesting in that the short chapters, the fractured feeling, mirrors the fractured lives of the girls. It is a novel of the era of I, Daniel Blake and it is a sad indictment of Britain. At the end of the book, in the Acknowledgements, the author thanks Newcastle Food Bank for welcoming her as a volunteer. Her experience there clearly further fuelled the outrage that partially inspired some of the scenes in the book. It is a book full of anger and sadness. The writing is excellent.