Archive | 10:28 AM

Book Club Reflection: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

15 Oct

I was overly optimistic that my recent book club discussion of The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert would reveal some major themes that I’d been oblivious to and help me understand the book.  It seems that everyone walked away from the book as confused as I was. On the bad side, there’s no new insight. On the good side, I’m not completely thick.

Most of us agreed that the slow build of the book at the beginning was enjoyable. We could all feel something creepy building. But the second half of the book seemed to be a complete 180 from the first half and didn’t seem to connect at all. It was disorienting as a reader.

We debated the setting and how much it was set in reality. One reader noticed that the sun rose in the west, so she assumed that this world wasn’t our own. The quality of the writing wasn’t what bothered us. We could easily picture this world. We got the feeling that the work was set in England after a war. We debated if it was a reference to the Children being sent from London during WWII but decided this was wrong. Though David showing up with a tag did draw up images of this time. There was a great sense of the setting and how it was slightly off, but without a hard answer, we didn’t like the lack of resolution.

We wondered if the ‘story’ of the children in the book meant they came from our world. Them all having been gassed would account for their knowledge of the evils of the world. It made sense for Engel to be the woman shot at the Children’s Home. One reader informed us Engel is German for Angel.

We noticed the two points of view, Morgan and Dr. Crane. Dr. Crane was usually a calm and cool character throughout but toward the end, he lost his temper and Morgan had to switch roles and calm him down. We noticed that the doctor seemed to act less and less like an adult as the book went on. At the same time, David matured more and more, as if they were working in opposite directions through life. The subtitle for Chapter 13 mentions Dr. Crane making an inquiry into something, but only David appears in the chapter. We might have figured something out!

Morgan’s mother was a bossy gardener. She cared a lot for her plants. She used her power to oversee the garden. Some saw this as foreshadowing for the importance of gardening later in the novel. Rebecca implied at one point that their mother had a potting shed back at the house. If the children were planted or grown there, we still don’t understand.

Many saw this as a novel about class struggle. The children had to subvert the power struggle. Engel’s name makes more sense when one recalls that Marx founded his idea of communism with Friedrich Engels. Rebecca represented capitalism and the accumulation of power on the back of the working-class children. Before David leaves, he says that they’ve made a difference ‘for now’ but implies it won’t last and that things won’t change.

There were a lot of things in the novel we didn’t understand, and which were left unresolved. The anatomical woman in the attic drew many different theories. Morgan’s grandfather’s collection of things was something else we felt lacked closure. Overall, the book felt a bit sloppy.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a more satisfying novel next month. We’ll meet in November but will skip December to enjoy the holidays. Until next time, write on.

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