Cover Image: Catherine House

Catherine House

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Member Reviews

I just finished Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas and I loved it! Set in an elite university with all the gothic vibes you could wish for, this book is just the suspense I needed right now. 

Ines is a defiant student with a dark past trying to unravel the secrets of Catherine House. She has a room mate Baby that she takes care of, until Baby starts having issues and has to go to the Restoration Center to "heal."

There is actually a large cast of characters in this one, students, professors, and administration. Sometimes I find this many characters difficult to follow but Elisabeth Thomas made it easy to keep up. I really enjoyed the quirkiness of these characters and felt like I understood them. 

This school has drinking the Kool-Aid, cultish behaviors, like chanting and completely cutting themselves off from society for 3 years. This exclusive house, the students, and staff hold some very dark secrets. The question is... can Ines figure it all out before it's too late to save herself?

Thank you to @harpercollins and @netgalley for an advanced copy of the book for my review! Publish Date is May 12, 2020.
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I finally finished Catherine House. It has taken me a long time to finish. I was excited to be able to read this book based on the description. I like gothic. I like boarding school  setting. In many ways the beginning reminded me of being Harry Potterish. The book was just too slow and no character to root for. Of course we only saw things through the eyes of Ines. I just kept waiting for something to click and want me to root for her. Thank you Custom House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Scheduled to post 6/13/20.

What kept me reading CATHERINE HOUSE was anticipating something happening. Anything. Anything other than the characters eating, drinking, and having sex with each other. I had to read 80% of the book before anything of real substance happened and when it finally did it was delivered in a disassociated way.

This book read like the diary of a wooden, emotionally bankrupt college student just going through the motions of being human in order to fit in with the world. CATHERINE HOUSE is a love letter to food, more than anything. And I didn't find it at all gothic. To me you need more than a deteriorating building for a story to be gothic. It was hard to really develop much atmosphere because you're behind Ines's eyes and she has a bland, robotic way of interacting with the world. It just didn't come through for me, at all.

I thought Yaya had way more personality (granted Ines basically has none so the bar's pretty low) and I wanted to know more about her. And for a story that centers around this weird aspect of this school, this plasm work, you barely see it and just skirt the edges of it toward the very end. I mean, yeah. What they're doing is definitely weird and creepy, but by the time that's actually exposed I was so numb thanks to the numb MC that I really couldn't care about the reveal at all.

I just don't think telling the story from Ines's perspective really did CATHERINE HOUSE any favors. I think it had a lot of potential and the blurb definitely drew me in, but the execution fell flat. What little build there was over the course of the book was so incredibly subtle it was lost in all of the talk about food, sex, drinking, games, food, and classroom instruction. Literally a diary of a dull college student.

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I went down a rabbit-hole of boarding house books several years ago because of something I was writing. In fact, I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s brilliant novel Never Let Me Go three times. Catherine House is similar to Never Let Me Go in tone. There’s a cool, almost cold, sense of mysteriousness about it. Emotions seemed to be held in and kept in check. There’s the same element of confusion amongst the students: what happens here? What is being done to us? 
Even some elements of the story, outside of the tone, were similar to Ishiguro’s novel. For instance, just as in Never Let Me Go, at Catherine House, students could save up currency and go buy used goods at a type of commissary. 
While I appreciated these similarities, I was left wanting more while reading Catherine House. I wanted to really understand who these characters were, most especially the main character, Ines. It was said of her a number of times by various characters that Ines looks at the world differently and “sees things sideways,” but that wasn’t what I experienced of her as a reader. To me, her viewpoint didn’t seem terribly unique, although I wish that it had. 
Sometimes certain books just don’t resonate with you, and I guess you can’t force it.
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This is such a difficult book to review. The characters... are not likable. In the slightest. The setting is mysterious and there’s definitely a dark academia vibe, which I love. There’s a bit of a sci-fi aspect but either I was too dense to understand it, or it wasn’t explained well. It took about 100 pages for me to really get into it, but after that it flew by. Was a solid 3.5 read for me, but the fact that I’m still thinking about it so long after reading has me rounding to 4. I think this isn’t going to be a book for everyone, but definitely was interesting and well written.
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Catherine House is so hard to explain without giving too much away. Two words: dark and bizarre. It is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you do read it, you will be immerse in a dark and bizarre world. 

Catherine House is for the high achieving student. Everyone wants to be part of it. But the thing is, the school is secretive and those who try to find more about it, will find nothing but rumors, never the truth. 

Ines becomes part of this secluded world. She’s definitely not enthusiastic at first, but there’s something about the mysterious director and the house that compels you to obey. The book goes through the three years of the Ines time at Catherine House. She loses her roommate and indulges in drinking and partying. She struggles with maintaining her grades up but for some reason, the director continues to give her chances. That is until the end. Ines learns about the experiments that a tight-knit circle of students are dealing with, and she finds herself questioning everything. 

The seductive and gothic atmosphere in this story makes it a recommendable and fast read. However, there were parts that were confusing. The character development was not fleshed out completely. I think some characters could have been more explored, especially Ines’s roommate. 4/5 stars

Thank you to Netgalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review
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Moody, dark, mysterious, and enticing. Elizabeth Thomas does a great job of conjuring up Catherine House. What a creepy place! Loved that this book took place in another time so no real loopholes in the plot. 

Ines was a fantastic character in every way possible. The reader may not be able to relate to her, but will be able to experience every emotion with her. 

Satisfying ending which is a rare thing these days.
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This was a very strange book. It’s more of a 3.5 read but bumped it up to four because I really enjoyed the writing. Look not a whole lot actually happens in this book so don’t expect anything action packed. But I found this book really mesmerizing and intriguing. It was creepy and mysterious.
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Catherine House is a slow burning, mysterious tale about a girl named Ines navigating her way through her years at a very prestigious, secluded, academic institution.  

The language is descriptive and beautiful but the sentences are very short and unvarnished which I found to be a unique combination that worked very well.  I found the story to be more character driven than plot driven, caring more about how Ines and her friends felt than the actual sci-fi mystery going on.  The plot was very slow-burning and dreamy; it's hard to determine what's REALLY happening but in the best way that parallels how the characters must be feeling.

My favorite part about this book was how the characters were presented.  As a Latina, I often wish stories would portray Latinx people without the story having to be ABOUT being Latinx.  This story to me showed true inclusion; it was just a story where the characters were black and brown and queer but the story wasn't about blackness or browness or queerness.  It just was.  THIS is true diversity and inclusion; characters being written to tell a story, not to serve the purpose of diversity itself.

Additionally, this is marketed mostly as an adult fiction book but I would recommend it to older teens, YA readers wanting to explore adult fiction, or adults who like YA.  There is sex and cursing but it's so passive that I feel most older teens wouldn't have a problem with it; there are racier scenes in CW shows than what's in this book.

I can't wait to see what's next from Elisabeth Thomas.
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Catherine House offers an educational experience like no other. Three years, all expenses paid, abundant alcohol, and misfit students. Ines has no interest in studying plasm, as many of her friends do. But when she realizes her great love, Theo, is keeping aspects of his studies secret from her, she allows her inquisitiveness to get the better of her, with disastrous results.

Catherine House is difficult to categorize, with Gothic, fantasy, and suspense elements. The novel is almost dreamlike, somewhat disjointed as though the reader were drunk along with the students. The backstory of Ines, the main character, is hinted at but never fully revealed, in keeping with the general feeling that there’s something you’re not quite getting. Catherine House is  unique and unforgettable, but perhaps not to everyone’s taste. To be honest, I love anything remotely a Gothic and when I read that the author is an archivist—as am I—I had to read it, and I’m glad I did.
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I wanted to like this book but it was not good.  All I could think of while reading it was that the author spent too much time trying to make her book like an adult version of Harry Potter.  The book is labeled as literary suspense, but there was no suspense at all.  Half way through the book and nothing of note happened.  I forced myself to keep reading but the writing was disjointed and disappointing.
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That was a wild ride! Haunting and certainly unusual, "Catherine House" is gothic college thriller with some Harry Potter-esque vibes, but sexier and magic-free.

Catherine House is the world's most secretive undergraduate institution. If you're lucky to be admitted from an insanely competitive pool of students, you are in with no way out for three years; students are required to commit their entire lives to the school without the freedom to bring in ANY personal belongings, use phones or go outside the premises (in theory, you can purchase certain freedoms with points earned for good behavior and grades, but that is practically nearly impossible). In exchange for this commitment, the school gives all students free tuition and room and board, promising to make you your most successful self in any discipline of choice.

Ines is one of the lucky admitted ones for whatever reason - she's not particularly smart or accomplished, and she used to be on the run from the law. But now that she's in, Ines notices a lot of very odd things and hush-hush science experiments happening around her... And to her.

I fell in love with the vibes of Catherine, the uniqueness of which reminded me a lot of my boarding school and college: drinking wine, having fun, studying my hardest and being part of "it," an institution for the elite. On top of that, I feel like it immediately clicked between Ines and I as she's fierce, edgy and introverted. On that note, the reader should not that Ines is bisexual and has quite a lot of explicit casual sex in this book, although nothing is graphic. 

But while I adored Ines, there were some lose ends in the story I found frustrating, such as a random wedding planned overnight and hosted by the school. Is it even an official wedding? Or that the consequence of misbehavior is being send to the Tower to reflect which involves complete nudity, but why? And how is it that no kinds of safety checks, visiting professors or any outside visitors, really, come in?

*Thank you to the Publisher for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Catherine house 

I would give this 3.75 stars out of 5. Thank you to Netgalley, Harper Collins and the Book Club Girls for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest opinion. I was getting some Bunny-Cruel Intentions-Donnie Darko vibes from the beginning of this one. It isn’t something I normally would read and am still analyzing what happened and what I just read. I definitely wouldn’t call this a thriller or directly suspenseful but I would say it’s a little twisted and edgy. I do recommend if you’re looking for something different to read!
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This is definitely a book that I feel will either resonate with its readers instantly, or leave them with a feeling of "What did I just read?"

Secret societies, gothic inspired settings, and an unlikable narrator kept me coming back for more. Despite the ability to see certain outcomes from miles away (I blame my constant intake of mysteries for this) I really did enjoy the overall story.

I would have given this a 4 star review, but a lack of explanation around certain aspects left me wanting.

 This was a wonderful debut by Elisabeth Thomas, and I will definitely keep an eye out for her future work. 

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Catherine House is the story of Ines, a young woman with a secret in her past, who ends up at a mysterious, run-down college in the middle of nowhere. She is not a sympathetic character, but by the end of the novel, the reader is drawn into her unusual experiences. The students at Catherine House are confined for three years until they complete their studies. The school focuses on the experimental study of plasm, which is gradually explained as the book unfolds. The strength of the book is in the vivid portrayal of the uncomfortable atmosphere of the school and its effect on the students. Recommended for readers of gothic thrillers and coming-of-age stories.
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I was ecstatic to start this book. Gothic style school setting, secret circle of students, and mystery. It did not deliver the way I had hoped.

Ines is not a relatable character for me. She is dragging through the existence of her life and though she is supposed to have some tragic past she is running from, I never get any feeling from her at all. Toted as mysterious, smart, oddly beautiful and unique and yet I saw none of those things. Descriptions are just odd too. In one area Ines has her hair described as "slutty waves." Not really sure where to go with that one.

The majority of the book is Ines skipping classes, having sex with random students, eating, chanting and class lectures. There is a lot of filler and the unraveling of the mystery doesn't begin until over 50% in. The mystery itself is interesting but the lead up to all of the reveals is lackluster. I had no excitement when the truth finally came out. No sinister vibes, no creep factor, nothing to set this off for me.

Unfortunately this was not my cup of tea.
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Catherine House is such an unexpected novel full of dark, foreboding secrets and something you can't quite put your finger on but can't put down. This book is not your typical prep school full of deceit and shadows. While those things are present, the writing is so...unique and airy despite the dark subject. You feel like you are floating along through the Catherine House; meanwhile, nefarious experiments and drunken parties are being held all around you. 

Ines, the main character, is unreliable but I think her unreliablity feeds into the tone of the book. No one really knows what is happening in Catherine House, even those inside it. She has nights she can't remember and days that pass without note. The periphery characters are interesting without pulling attention from the real focus, the Catherine House as a whole. 

This is not my typical novel. It was so atmospheric and kept me hooked based on a feeling, not necessarily a particular plotline. The writing was beautiful and the images of decrepit but beautiful house makes the reader really understand that it's not the house itself that the students care about, it's what happens to their souls while they are there.  Although there wasn't an obvious, over arcing plot to carry the reader through, the events that led to the ultimate ending were perfect and never felt like a reach. 

Overall I would definitely recommend this book but with the caveat that it is a very atmospheric book that may not be the most exciting to read but is enjoyable and thought provoking nonetheless.
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Such a unique book. I loved the eery and atmospheric setting. The main character's voice was very detached, but I felt it was purposeful. Some characters I did not like and some I loveddd (Yaya and Baby). The story was a slow build, but even the ultimate end result and reveal was quiet. I loved the setting and the reveal was definitely thought provoking..
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This book is being compared to the Secret History (my favorite book) and Never Let Me Go (another book that I love). I disagree with those comparisons. I would personally compare this book to Bunny by Mona Awad, if anything. It's dreamlike. It's bizarre. The pacing is confusing. There doesn't really appear to be any character development. It reads like a CW show, Riverdale maybe? Which will probably work for someone- I am just not that someone. You don't get any answers. It all just ultimately felt empty to me.
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I did not mean to read science fiction this month.  I am wearied of the way it has seeped into our lives with the pandemic. When I picked up "Catherine House," a fast-paced, entertaining, odd little book, I expected somelthing like Donna Tartt’s "The Secret History."

It is true that Catherine House is a college novel, albeit portrayed through a lens of SF and horror.  Thomas has a knack for spare, muted sentences that create the perfect unobtrusive background for a sinister plot.  The narrator, Ines, a first-year student, has a brooding presence and is not entirely enchanted with the school; cynicism keeps her cognizant of the director’s dangerous charisma.  On the other hand, she feels lucky to have  been accepted at any college, let alone Catherine House, an exclusive three-year college famous for its research on a substance called “plasm.”  All of the students consider themselves lucky to be there, to the point that they don’t worry about the college’s cult-like culture.   They agree not to leave campus until after graduation, and are denied the internet, TV, newspapers, and magazines, and contact with their families. 
Ines skips classes–she is not particularly academic–and devotes her time to drinking too much, blacking out, and having lots of sex (why doesn’t anyone in these books get STDs, I mused). She is disturbed by mandatory sessions of chanting led by the director and enhanced by plasm, given in the form of acupuncture needles.  When her plasm-obsessed roommate, Baby, a brilliant but nervous girl who eccentrically picks locks to relax, is found dead, Ines wonders what happened.  But somehow she can’t follow this line of thought, because there is nothing for her out in the world.

Several of Ines’s friends have doubts about Catherine House, but also have nowhere to go.  And one sees there’s a pattern in the student population.  

This novel is not perfect–the plot falters a bit near the end– but it is an enjoyable little novel.  It’s not Donna Tartt:  I call it “'Wuthering Heights' meets Enid Blyton and Frankenstein.” But this will be fun for fans of SF/fantasy college novels like "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman and "Vita Nostra" by Marina and Sergei Dyachenko.  It especially reminds me of the latter.
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