The Home by Sarah Stovell #BookReview #BlogTour

One more little secret

One more little lie…

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For she lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and harrowing psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all…

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Home today. Many thanks to Sarah Stovell, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Home opens with the death of a teenage girl but Sarah Stovell ensures her voice is not only heard but her story - which is sadly representative of the experiences of too many children - will linger long after the devastating conclusion has been reached. It is a murder mystery but far more than that, this harrowing novel explores what happens to those whose childhoods are ripped apart by neglect and abuse.
When young people have their trust in adults destroyed, it's not surprising that they should be drawn to one another and so it is for Hope and Annie when they are both placed in the care of Hillfoot House. Its remote location in the Lake District means the girls have little to do other than explore the surrounding area and soon form a passionate but destructive bond. When they are discovered missing on Christmas morning, the police deliver the tragic news that one of the girls has been found dead. As the novel progresses, both Hope and Annie's terrible stories are slowly revealed and it makes for necessarily difficult reading. There is a third girl in Hillfoot House, twelve-year-old Lara whose background has left her so traumatised, she is unable to speak. All three are clearly desperately vulnerable but while Hope and Annie's histories are more fully explored, the largely unexplained nature of what actually led to the tragedy which brought Lara to the home means she often cuts a particularly heartbreaking figure.
This may be fiction but there is a painful truth to The Home because what happens to these girls is the lived experience of real children and young people. Born into chaotic homes where mental illness, poverty and addiction leads to physical, psychological and sexual abuse, Hope and Annie's experiences are never anything less than distressing but there is nothing gratuitous here; the shame and guilt they feel is agonising and highlights why it's so important for people to understand that right now there are children being failed by their parents and by society as a whole. They are not easy young people; they are frequently belligerent, mistrustful and secretive but when they are barely able to cling on to life, they need these protective barriers against a world which has let them down time and again. That one of them ends up dead is perhaps horribly inevitable,
"We were fragile, too. But we weren't fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs."
Home to most of us conjures up feelings of warmth and safety but Hope, Annie and Lara have been denied that for most of their short lives. With staff who are demoralised by cuts and low wages, it's not surprising that mistakes are made at Hillfoot House but this is not so much a book about the failings within the care system as a heartending look at the circumstances which mean so many children are reliant on a system which cannot cope. It's hard to feel much sympathy for the adults who have failed these children but with the exception of one particularly loathsome individual, I was able to recognise that they too have been let down time and again and are also victims of a society which is unable or unwilling to help those living in its underbelly.
This dark, deeply affecting book never balks at discussing subjects as raw as youth suicide and the exploitation and prostitution of children, meaning that I can't describe The Home as enjoyable; it made me angry and desperately sad but Sarah Stovell's empathetic, perceptive writing ensured I couldn't tear my eyes from the page. This isn't an uplifting read and it never patronises its readers with false promises of hope but it is an important and realistic portrayal of young lives marked by abuse and violence. Highly recommended.

The Home is published by Orenda Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of  blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was a number-one bestseller.


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