“Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas – Book Review

“A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.”

Ines Murillo is a lost soul. She begins her three year term at Catherine House having little to lose after a traumatic and rather sordid event in her past. Her roommate is called Baby, a studious and serious girl. Ines on the other hand parties hard, misses classes, and finds herself lost, both physically and metaphorically.  Has she escaped her past? Or, has she run from the proverbial frying pan straight into the fire?

The first word that comes to mind after reading this novel is ‘Bizarre’. The vibe emitted by this novel is at once creepy and unsettling – you just know that things are not as they should be… Could Catherine House actually be a warped sociological experiment?

The insular setting, deep in the dark Pennsylvania forest, makes the reader uneasy. The students are not allowed to leave – for three years! They are encouraged to study hard and achieve academic acclaim while at the same time they are also encouraged to drink and have parties – parties that often get out of hand. Say what?  The gates are locked, and they don’t have recourse to contact their families or friends on the outside. They do not have access to the internet. Although they have shabby chic surroundings, Catherine House is a prison-like institution disguised as a place of higher learning. And weird… some of the students study ‘plasm’ and ‘new materials’.  The almost ‘cult like’ atmosphere puts great stresses upon Catherine House’s students.

I found that, despite by very best efforts I could not care about the protagonist or her plight in this surreal environment with these odd and suspect people. In fact, while reading, I found I could hardly wait to leave “Catherine House” with its brilliant though seriously messed up residents. Reality – a bizarre concept here… the whole thing was like a waking nightmare.

Recommended to readers who enjoy a touch of science fiction laced with creepy and other-worldly situations and environments.  I can honestly say that I will never read anything else by this author. Sadly, this book was not for me.


This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Custom House (an imprint of Harper Collins) via Edelweiss.

Publication date: May 12, 2020  Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780062905659   ASIN: B07WG8LXSD     320 pages


Elisabeth Thomas grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she still lives and now writes. She graduated from Yale University and currently works as an archivist for a modern art museum. This is her first novel.

Visit her website and/or follow her on Twitter.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Edelweiss and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas – Book Review

  1. I appreciate your thoughtful review, Lynne! I have been curious about this one due to it being gothic, but it sounds way out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was curious about this one, though I’ve seen mixed reviews. It definitely sounds bizarre!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carlissa says:

    I’ve signed up for several giveaways for this book and haven’t won a copy. Looks like I may be the lucky one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The premise indeed sounds dark and unsettling. Sorry to know you didn’t like the book. Hope your next read is good. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol says:

    Oh bummer! I’m impressed you finished it! I don’t do well with dark or bizarre!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kristina M. Anderson says:

    I agree with you about Catherine House. Odd was the word I came up with. I like your “bizarre”. It really suits this unusual book.

    Liked by 1 person

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