Oh, Catherine House…. I must admit: it’s tricky to know what to do with you.
This debut novel by Elisabeth Thomas is one of those books that’s difficult to categorize. Part literary fiction and part suspense, part speculative tale and part Gothic, Catherine House manages to nod at all these genres without necessarily belonging to any one. The story follows Ines Murillo, a first-year student entering the mysterious Catherine House, a secluded university infamous for its academic rigor and exclusivity. In burying herself in these closely-kept halls, Ines hopes to escape the dark past she’s been fleeing. But not every secret hidden within Catherine’s walls is of the beautiful sort.
There’s a lot to love in this novel. While I didn’t necessarily like Ines for the first half of the book, I did find her a very believable protagonist. (A word of warning: While this novel would probably be considered young adult, it reads at the very mature end of the spectrum, with heavy sprinklings of drinking and [mostly-offscreen] casual sex.) Her character arc is also well-developed–the Ines I met at the novel’s opening grew, by the end, into a vulnerable, nuanced person I couldn’t help rooting for. Along the same lines, the ensemble cast of characters surrounding Ines are vivid sketches, capturing perfectly the unique sense of community found only at college, when your friends are not only your classmates, but your colleagues and family and roommates, as well.Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Catherine House””