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The Children’s House

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  446 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Marina, 'the gypsy scholar', a writer and academic, and her psychoanalyst husband, Jacob, were each born on a kibbutz in Israel. They meet years later at a university in California, Marina a grad student and Jacob a successful practitioner and teacher who has a young son, Ben, from a disastrous marriage. The family moves to a brownstone in Harlem, formerly a shelter run by ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2018 by PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
4.5 stars
It was an absolute pleasure to be introduced to the graceful storytelling of Alice Nelson. Her latest work of art, The Children’s House, is a touching rendition to the world of family, parenting, motherhood, connection and identity. This is a rousing tale that will refuse to leave you, despite the final page being turned over. In its own unique way, The Children’s House has so much to say about loss, trauma and love.

It was the title that first caugh
Theresa Smith
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aww2018
The Children’s House is a stunning novel, deeply moving and exquisitely written. Character driven, it is highly accessible literary fiction, a study in displacement and the lasting effects of severe trauma. The title of the novel refers to the place in an Israeli kibbutz where children live, so called, the Children’s House. Newborns are delivered there, from the time their mothers are released from hospital after giving birth, expected to live there with only one hour per day set aside for visit ...more
Lee Kofman
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was utterly taken by the intelligence and artistic beauty of this work! Nelson is an exquisite storyteller who enters her characters deeply, rendering each utterly unique. She also has the knack for thoughtfully engaging with tough moral questions and at the same time creating a taut, exciting narrative. Plus the thematic breadth of this novel is breathtaking; you can find an entire world there between the pages of this relatively slim book. I rarely get excited about contemporary fiction, but ...more
Cass Moriarty
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Children’s House (Penguin Random House 2018) by Alice Nelson is an extraordinary rendering of family, place, the dynamics of relationships and most of all, the complex and intricate ties between parents and children – not only their own, but also the children of others. In beautiful, literary language, Nelson weaves together the stories of the main characters, traversing backwards and forwards in time, through memories, to capture something profound about the way in which families function, ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars

This book carries power not only in the story but in the telling. The writing is sirenic, drawing you deeper into the damaged yet hopeful existence of Marina and those who she calls family.
The book explores concepts of family, love, childhood, nurture and the destructive power of war and ideologies - and how the damage ripples through the generations as a sense of loss.

An absolutely mesmerising read that is at once heartbreaking and inspiring.
Lesley Moseley
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
2 1/2 maybe as I got sick f the trope of zigzag timelines and POV's... Skipped to the end and didn't feel I lost anything.
Leanne Lovegrove
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book but it has left me with a deep sense of sadness that I cannot shake
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found The Children's House to be an exquisite, heart-wrenching novel that explores the complexities of loving a child not your own in the most authentic and powerful way. It is full of stories that interlock in a kind of tessellated pattern that feels inevitable and all the disparate strands are brought together beautifully. The aftermath of war, the struggle to reform the self in the face of great loss, the redemptions of love and the power of family are all themes that weave through the nove ...more
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
My View:
Can a book both be intense and yet subtle? Can it be meditative yet urge you to take action? Can stories of displacement, war and war crimes, isolation and suicide have a more or less happy resolution? This highly complex yet very easy and engaging read broaches many contemporary issues in an eloquent and unassuming voice; this is accessible literary fiction at its best.

A fantastic read
Jacquie Garton-Smith
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Children’s House is a haunting and lyrical novel covering important themes including belonging, parenting and what constitutes family with absolute respect. Bereft to finish this truly wonderful novel and no longer able to journey with the characters on the gentle tide of Alice’s exquisite prose - but will be reading it again to soak up more of the beauty. Favourite book of 2018.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Children’s House is Alice Nelson’s third book: her first was a novel called The Last Sky (2008), which was followed by After This: Survivors of The Holocaust Speak (2015). I haven’t read The Last Sky, but based on its blurb and my reading of After This, (see my review) it seems to me that Nelson is drawn to the melancholy. She writes about exile, displacement, abandonment, loss and survival.

Just as After This chronicled the hope and healing of Holocaust survivors, The Children’s House conclu
Dominique Wilson
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Children's House, by Alice Nelson [Penguin Random House, 2018] is an intelligent examination of both the effects of collective child rearing on an Israeli kibbutz, and the effect of war and trauma on mother/child relationships. It also investigates the good – and the harm – that one does when wanting to help another. There is psychological depth here – not only in the way Nelson explores each of her characters' psyche, but also in her recognition of the meaning, power and importance of silen ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Honestly, it's probably a 5-star book. Especially for earnest book clubbers looking for a novel to fuel deep and rich discussion about any number of themes: motherhood, attachment, parental love, family, faith, refugees, grief and loss. I did enjoy the reading experience and picked this book up at every possible opportunity. The writing was fluid and accomplished and the stories rang and reverberated, enriched with wide and thorough research.

Totally my own loss but for some unfortunate reason I
Jean Smith
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such a beautiful and sad story about a Jewish academic and her husband who have a very happy but childless marriage. They live in Harlem, New York amongst a variety of ethnic minorities. One day Marina sees a young refugee mother from Rwanda with her small child - they need help and Marina is drawn in to a relationship with them. She becomes totally besotted with the child and in return he with her. The story goes back and forth to Israel, England and New York. The Children’s House is relevant t ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is called the Children's House, a reference to a kibbutz in Israel. Having lived for several years on a kibbutz, I felt somewhat offended by the implication that children who grow up on a kibbutz cannot have a strong bond with their parents. The various themes around parenting and dysfunction just didn't come together for me. I listened to the audiobook , narrated by an acclaimed Australian actress but I am sorry to say her reading detracted from the story, especially with the long lis ...more
Taneqa Crake
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After hearing Alice Nelson talk about writing this book I knew I had to read it. I honestly loved this book. The intertwining stories of past, present and future was done extremely well, also having some chapters done by different characters points of view gave more perspective to the story. This book is going into one of my top reads.
Jade Maree
Will write a review after book club meets 😁
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story with great composition and language. Although the author is Australian it has an international flavour.
Sam Still Reading
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people looking for an emotional read
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: from the publisher
The Children’s House is a strong, character driven story that reveals the deepest emotions of its characters in a quietly powerful way. I wasn’t expecting the story to be as compelling as it was, but it sucked me in rather quickly! Alice Nelson has a way of drawing the reader into the world of her characters, seating you at the dinner table, in the study…wherever they go. The story discusses mothers in all forms – from those desperate to love to those who appear to be desperate to leave.

Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Emerging from an undercurrent of trauma and the impact of exile is a story of love. Nelson's novel is beautifully written and deeply sensitive to the struggles of her characters to "belong to the places they are born", as "They don't have to go searching." The narrative focuses on searching to fit together the pieces of one's past into the landscape of one's present, often a journey of self-reflection, dramatic loss and pain. Yet, the novel is ultimately uplifting, exploring how families are cre ...more
Callum Macdonald
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“So often consolation was unexpected; so often it came in a language not one’s own”.

The Children’s House is a deeply moving meditation on grief and identity, following the lives of Marina and her husband Jacob, each born on a Kibbutz in Israel: the ‘children of the Gods’. In the summer of 1997, Constance, a young Rwandan refugee, appears before Marina with her toddler, outside their Harlem brownstone. As their relationship grows, Marina is forced to consider the ways in which motherly love has
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Weirdly racist
The Children’s House is an intense but hopeful story despite exposing the long-lasting effects of childhood trauma. It is well-crafted novel that weaves the lives of all of the characters seamlessly to the point when they intersect in Harlem. Despite their divergent origins, each of the main characters has been damaged by the horrors of war, the loss of parental attachment, and/or the loss of connections to place. The ongoing suffering repeated in the subsequent generations is disheartening but ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Children’s House, by Alice Nelson, is very much a character study. The “children’s house” of the title refers to the upbringing in an Israeli kibbutz of Marina – a writer and academic, who grapples with memories of a mother who lacked maternal instinct, and of her brother, who committed suicide some years before.

Her life changes drastically when she encounters young Rwandan refugee, Constance, and her young son, Gabriel. Having not been blessed with a child of her own – but stepmother to he
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is more of an emotional read. Even though you do find out about certain events, it is the feelings of the characters that chart this story, not the actual events.

For me, the story was one of love and loss. The book is a telling of all the losses that all the characters have suffered throughout their lives, and how the loss of others has also impacted on this. This loss can be on a grand global scale, such as the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda. It can also be on a much more local sca
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Children's House by Alice Nelson is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story of mothers and motherhood. Nelson has weaved many stories of loss and longing together to create this compelling novel. On the one hand we have Constance, a Rwandan refugee, mother of 2 y.o. Gabriel, struggling to survive after enduring unknown traumas in her home country. Alongside this is Marina, an academic and writer, attempting to settle with her psychoanalyst husband while coping with her longing for a mother and th ...more
Dominique Wilson
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Children's House, by Alice Nelson is an intelligent examination of both the effects of collective child rearing on an Israeli kibbutz, and the effect of war and trauma on mother/child relationships. It also investigates the good – and the harm – that one does when wanting to help another. There is psychological depth here – not only in the way Nelson explores each of her characters' psyche, but also in her recognition of the meaning, power and importance of silences. Nelson writes beautifull ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful beautiful book to start this year's reading. Kibbutz's in Israel's commenced at the beginning of the 20th C and primarily in agriculture; it has been said that they were the purest form of socialism. But at a price. The 'children's house ' was aptly described in Dov's exhibition " they called us the children of the Gods but really we were small offerings to the Gods of ideology”. I was very impressed by AN's writing. Each character was developed so the reader 'knew' each one. It ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book at night and stayed up until 4am to finish it. It's one of those rare novels that manages to combine beautiful, lyrical literary prose with a plot that is so compelling that you just can't stop reading. It follows the story of an American writer and academic Marina and her evolving and complicated friendship with a Rwandan refugee woman Constance. Marina grows more and more attached to Constance's little boy Gabriel, who is deprived of maternal affection due to the ps ...more
Anne Mcginnes
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
The Children’s House of the title is on a kibbutz in Israel where children are raised separated from their parents. This separation between parents, mothers in particular, and children is the theme of this book.
Marina has spent a lifetime longing for her mother and is now longing to be a mother. Constance, Gizela and Leni are all mothers who have abandoned their children either physically or emotionally. Constance is damaged by the atrocities of war, Gizela by a loveless childhood and Leni by a
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Alice Nelson is an Australian writer. Her first novel, The Last Sky, was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award, won the T.A.G. Hungerford Award and was shortlisted for the Australian Society of Authors’ Barbara Jefferis Award. She was named Best Young Australian Novelist of 2009 in the Sydney Morning Herald’s national awards program. Alice's new novel, The Children's House, will be

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