ARC Review: Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


blood, scientific experimentation on humans and animals, supposed suicide, suicidal thoughts, death



Catherine House: A Novel: Thomas, Elisabeth: 9780062905659: Amazon ...

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.


My Review:

I’m having trouble reviewing this book, as my experience reading it was just… odd. The concept behind it was interesting, but I don’t think that it was executed the right way.

For one thing, the atmosphere of the story was disappointingly underdeveloped. It lacked the creepiness/eerieness that I expected it to have, being a mysterious, ultra-exclusive school and all. Something about the setting just fell flat, and that was very disappointing to me. The whole reason why I was excited to read this book was because of its creepy boarding school vibe, so naturally, when the school itself was not creepy at all, I felt extremely let down.

The book is marketed as a mystery, but it didn’t feel like a mystery at all. There was no suspense, no creepiness, no buildup of tension or anxiety… nothing. All of the big events in the plot weren’t written to be exciting. For example, the supposed death of one of the main characters was written in such a way that made it seem like “no big deal”. I had to reread the page and ask myself, she just died, right? because I was so confused by the way the author described the event.

The pacing of this book was also something I had trouble enjoying. I viewed it as a pretty bad sign when the plot still hadn’t picked up by the time I was half way through the book. Like I said, there was no excitement or suspense to keep me invested in the plot. The narration was very bland as well, and Ines’s perspective failed to pull me into the story. I don’t want to say Ines’s character was boring or underdeveloped, because it wasn’t. But I really wish more details had been provided about who she was before coming to Catherine House. We’re given very little information about her past, so it’s hard to get a good grasp on the type of person she is.

It might just be my own personal taste, but I really disliked the author’s writing style. It felt very choppy, and there was no flow to the story at all. We would get these random flashbacks to critical events in Ines’s past, and then they wouldn’t be brought up again for another hundred pages.

Speaking of which, after reading the book, I felt like there were a lot of loose ends that hadn’t been tied up. There were many plot holes that hadn’t been completely explained, so naturally, I was left with many questions. Also, there was this huge event that was brought up multiple times in the story that was never really resolved. I don’t even see why the author bothered adding it to the book if she wasn’t going to clear it up at the end.

Ines’s character arc as a whole felt incomplete. Her relationships with other characters hadn’t been wrapped up, nor had her own personal journey. The ending itself was very unsatisfying and anticlimatic, which was another huge disappointment.

Taking everything into consideration, Catherine House was a pretty big let down. The plot had so much potential to be fantastic, but ultimately it failed to deliver. If you’re looking for a book set at an ultra-exclusive, mysterious school, I’m sure there are others out there more interesting than this one.

Sadly, this book was simply not for me. 

Final Rating:

5 out of 5 stars png, Picture #367832 5 out of 5 stars png




One thought on “ARC Review: Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

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