“[A] delicious literary Gothic debut.” –THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, EDITORS' CHOICE
“Moody and evocative as a fever dream, Catherine House is the sort of book that wraps itself around your brain, drawing you closer with each hypnotic step.” – THE WASHINGTON POST
A Most Anticipated Novel by Entertainment Weekly • New York magazine • Cosmopolitan • The Atlantic • Forbes • Good Housekeeping • Parade • Better Homes and Gardens • HuffPost • Buzzfeed • Newsweek • Harper’s Bazaar • Ms. Magazine • Woman's Day • PopSugar • and more!
A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.
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Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.
Thomas's spellbinding debut opens in 1996 on Ines Murillo's first night at a small, highly selective college in the Pennsylvania woods. Drunk after a party, Ines reflects on her relief that behind Catherine House's locked gates, no one knows about her past. Renowned for controversial research regarding a mysterious elemental substance called plasm, the school holds classes year-round, and students remain confined to Catherine's rural estate. Eager to disassociate from a past trauma, Ines falls behind on her work while seeking solace in a string of sexual encounters before finding a group of friends who feel closer to family than anything she's ever known. Still, Ines can't ignore her growing suspicions about the school's plasm experimentation in "psychosexual healing," in which students are subjected to mass hypnosis. Ines's academic probation leads her to forced isolation in the "Restoration Center," where a professor places plasm pins in her head and tells her she'll never think of her past life again. Surreal imagery, spare characterization, and artful, hypnotic prose lend Thomas's tale a delirious air, but at the book's core lies a profound portrait of depression and adolescent turmoil. Fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History will devour this philosophical fever dream.
Deeply immersing then becomes a slog
I can’t tell if the author is brilliant and the rest of us are idiots or was this just garbled? It lacked flow or completion of thought. It’s almost like the author kept a journal during her time at college and then tried to turn it into a book. At first I was really into the book due to comparisons to The Secret History which is my favorite book of all time (nope it’s not anywhere close). It was a page turner until about halfway through where I thought I was just gonna quit. I had invested so much time though so I read the whole thing and now I’m mad I didn’t just read something else. The author fills the book with too many useless sentences and there is an actual mistake early on where a word is missing from the sentence. This should have been caught by now. The author must be reasonably intelligent as she graduated from Princeton and the idea is good but it failed in execution. Is this sci-go or fantasy or what? So much repetition of chanting when she could’ve just wrote “chanting”. In a more skilled writer’s hands this could have been amazing instead it’s just boring and mundane. Please head my warning and don’t read this. Nothing happens despite a huge buildup.
Of all the books I’ve read on my iPad, over 250 by now, this one, Catherine House, is going to stick with me awhile. The tale is familiar, the characters too, but Elizabeth Thomas’ writing style is unusual. Flowing at times, and jarring at others, but always deeply engaging. And this is her first book. She works in a museum. Go figure. I need to follow her, and see if she’s written another book.