Date read: September 29th, 2017
Verdict: Lovely little creepy novella, full of whimsy and magic.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
I was having a week from hell at work (the weeks leading up to the winter term are usually like this) and needed something short and delightful to read. This absolutely fit the bill. Seanan McGuire has written a twisty little novella with a heart.
Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children is a boarding school for all those children who have travelled to other worlds and have come back not quite fitting in and longing to go back. Mostly those children are girls as they are more likely to get lost in a different world. Their parents want the best for them but cannot understand them or really know them and so these girls end up in this school, trying their best to either find their way back to the world they really feel at home or to find a way to find some approximation of happiness in this one.
The world Seanan McGuire has created here is absolutely stunning, from its well thought-out but cryptic system of categorizing the worlds the children have visited, to her understanding of how those worlds might shape visitors, to her wonderful asides that hint at larger stories worthy of being told. I adored the way she sets up here story and how she lets it unfold.
I did, however, find parts to be a bit clumsy. I cannot quite put my finger on it but I think it is the dialogue that feels unnatural and took me out of the story quite a bit. It is a problem I have encountered in her work before (I never did finish Feed for example): I often find her ideas to be mesmerizing and the execution then somewhat lacking. The characters themselves are interesting and feel like real, flawed people, but something in their interaction does not work for me. Here it did not bother me all that much because I found the world so brilliant. Which is why I cannot wait to read the next book in this (apparently losely connected) series of novellas.
First sentence: “The girls were never present for the entrance interviews.”