The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert [book review]


Summary: Morgan Fletcher is a disfigured recluse living on an isolated country estate with only his housekeeper, Engel, as company.

One day, mysterious children begin to appear at the house. Where they come from and why they are coming is unknown.

Morgan and Engel take the children in and give them a home (as though this is the usual and expected thing to do when strange children appear at one’s door).

Morgan finds the children to be both a source of great happiness and of horror. As he gradually unravels the tangled threads of the children’s purpose and its connection to him, he comes to understand something about his own past and purpose in the world as well.

Thoughts: The Children’s Home is a brief, deceptively simple story featuring elements of surrealism, magical realism, mystery, and horror.

The tone and style suggest what the result might be of a collaborative effort between A. A. Milne and Stephen King, combining the quiet charm of the former with the abrupt violence and insidious unease of the latter.

The plot is vague, and much is left up to the imagination of the reader (i.e. not explained or made clear). I didn’t find the story very enjoyable or interesting, but I did find it worthy of some thought.

I would describe the arc of the story as unsatisfying, like glimpsing a form in mist. Many things are hinted at or suggested, but never made certain. The ending leaves the reader largely in the dark, still groping for explanations. It seems as though the characters discover or learn something, but the reader is never let in on the secret. This provokes the reader to wonder if she’s wasted her time, or if she simply missed something, or if she needs to think about the story differently.

The book never truly becomes anything, which may be the main source of frustration. Rather like someone trying to write a story based on a vague dream, and having filled in the gaps in the background and setting, and peopled it with a cast of characters, still finds it to be little more than an idiosyncratic curiosity – a creation with no point or significance outside itself. Which some might argue is a definition of art.

Conclusion: I would recommend this curious novella only if one’s tastes run to the odd and vague, and the presence of creepy children in a story is viewed as an unqualified asset.

Book Details:

  • Title: The Children’s Home
  • Author: Charles Lambert
  • Date published: January 5, 2016
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Format: Hardcover
  • My source: Public library