I like to participate in life rather than be a spectator. Music, dancing, theatre, travelling, food, cycling and walking are some of my passions. Writing is an enjoyable pastime that allows me to share my experiences.
Published October 25th 2018
An Intriguing Experience For The Reader
The Children's House by Alice Nelson is a story that delves into the mystery of the power of a mother's love. It was a story that grew on me the more I read, I found it mystifying and intriguing. The language is beautiful but restrained "but she's in me like a door banging a little in the wind." One gets a feel for the characters even though they don't give too much away "The clattering house of Jacob's heart." I found The Children's House full of loss, sadness and grief ,but in the end love reigns supreme.
The novel is mainly set in Harlem where scholar Marina and psychiatrist Jacob live with Jacob's grown son Ben in a brownstone once occupied by a "family" of nuns. This loving couple have everything they could want for except their own child.Marina finds an outlet for her love when she meets the emotionally lost Constance and her young son.
I did not know much about either Rwandan refugees or Jewish kibbutzim but The Children's House definitely piqued my interest in these subjects. Alice writes with knowledge of the brownstone in Harlem having lived there working with undocumented migrant families and refugees as a case worker.
It was initially hard to engage in the story as the chapters were non sequential and jumped in time and place. The subject matter was difficult and confronting as the lives and relationships of the main characters were shaped by traumas in their youth which can only be imagined. To enhance the feeling of dissociation most of the story is written in third person and we are slowly given small pieces of information in order to observe the lives of the various families. The individual stories become more entwined as the relationships change and develop. I found the conclusion interesting and not entirely suspected. I was disappointed though that we never really find the truth of the horrors that have shaped the psyche of Rwandan refugee Constance.
This book would be a good choice for book clubs as the themes of parenthood, family, home and belonging are guaranteed to spark conversation and some healthy debate.
The Children's House is a compelling story that does not ascribe to traditional happy endings.