“I’m scared that out there, someday I’ll look around and realize forty years have passed and no one can see me. That I’m gone.”
Rating: 2/5 stars
Format: Physical copy
You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .
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 its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.
For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, 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 that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
Today’s review is going to be on the much shorter side because the only way to sum up Catherine House is that it truly is an experience. This most definitely not going to be a book for everyone, however, the synopsis completely had me hooked so I had to at least give it a shot and despite my two star rating I’m still glad that I did give this a try.
Catherine House is a weird and unique story about a girl named Ines who gets accepted into an elite school of higher learning. For three years you have to devote your life to Catherine House – no TV, family, friends, communication with the outside world, or talk of your life prior to coming to the school- in return you can become whoever you want to be in society once your three years are up. But you have to actually survive Catherine House or avoid getting kicked out which Ines and her friends quickly learn is much harder than they originally imagined. I think the three biggest things that didn’t work for me in this story were Ines – I liked the side characters much better, what the actual secret to Catherine House was, and how the story ended. But that’s so much of a personal preference and this is 100% the type of book that if the synopsis sounds interesting to you, you need to experience it for yourself. Just trust me on it.
Please don’t let my two star rating negate how phenomenal the writing in this book was. Even though I didn’t like Ines or the “mystery” element to the story the writing was the one thing that could not get me to put this book down. Like, you couldn’t have paid me any amount of money to DNF this book because I needed to see how it ended. Catherine House sucks you in and sucks you down as Ines slowly but surely gets to the bottom of what’s really going on in the school. The sense of something ominous and sinister that Thomas creates is something you can legitimately feel as you’re reading, almost as if the school is sucking the life out of you too. Even though I didn’t really vibe with the overall story I will still pick up anything the author writes in the future because this woman can WRITE.
All in all, if you’re looking for a book to get lost in Catherine House absolutely delivers on that. Whether or not the story and the characters will work for you is something I would love to know if you decide to pick this up!
Until next time,