June 2020 Indie Next List
— Stephanie Skees, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO
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“[A] delicious literary Gothic debut.” –THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, EDITORS' CHOICE
“Moody and evocative as a fever dream, Catherine House is the sort of book that wraps itself around your brain, drawing you closer with each hypnotic step.” – THE WASHINGTON POST
A Most Anticipated Novel by Entertainment Weekly • New York magazine • Cosmopolitan • The Atlantic • Forbes • Good Housekeeping • Parade • Better Homes and Gardens • HuffPost • Buzzfeed • Newsweek • Harper’s Bazaar • Ms. Magazine • Woman's Day • PopSugar • and more!
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.
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Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.
Praise For Catherine House: A Novel…
“There are shades of Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock as suspense builds in the winding corridors of the house and the twisting turns of the psyche. Moody and evocative as a fever dream, Catherine House is the sort of book that wraps itself around your brain, drawing you closer with each hypnotic step.” — The Washington Post
“Calling all The Secret History fans! This debut novel is set within the walls of an exclusive private college, but with a twist: Students seclude themselves for three years, completely removed from their previous lives.” — Entertainment Weekly, Stay Home and Read These 20 New May Books
“This dark, speculative thriller . . . [is] an electrifying update on gothic horror, evoking haunting institutional imagery and weaving in 'psychosexual' experimentation and power imbalances.” — Buzzfeed, 29 Summer Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down
“This haunting thriller is filled with unexpected twists and shocking suspense.” — Today.com, Emma Straub Has 5 Books to Read if You Loved All Adults Here
“The strength of this debut novel relies on its refusal to adhere to any sort of genre conventions . . . The book’s setting provides just as much fodder for thought and discussion as do its characters or plot. . . . While the book is easy to read—Thomas’s smart prose ensures that—the echoes of discomfort linger long after the last pages are turned.” — The Boston Globe
"Elisabeth Thomas is a magician of a writer who expertly blends a deeply atmospheric boarding-school story with a futuristic sci-fi mystery in Catherine House. A grown-up, sophisticated version of Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall, this dazzling debut will have you turning the pages late into the night." — Angie Kim, bestselling author of Miracle Creek
“Elisabeth Thomas had me mesmerized from the first page. Dreamy and brimming with dread, Catherine House will swallow you whole." — Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls
"With this astonishing debut, Elisabeth Thomas has conjured an immersive, intoxicating world that left me as reluctant as its characters were to leave it behind. I inhaled the novel in a single, glorious weekend, but Catherine House and its denizens will linger with me for a very long time." — Robin Wasserman, New York Times bestselling author of Girls on Fire
"Catherine House is a novel that lingers long after the final page. It's a haunting, mesmerizing debut—a modern gothic tale that is both profoundly moving and eerily disturbing. Thomas's novel makes us question our ability to forgive, to accommodate our mistakes and those of others, and the possibility of ever truly finding a place that feels like home." — Ivy Pochoda, award-winning author of Wonder Valley and Visitation Street
"For fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a haunting, atmospheric reflection on the discovery of self and others. At times terrifying, always gorgeously captivating, Thomas’ debut is one not to be missed, and perhaps to be revisited frequently." — Booklist (starred review)
“Elisabeth Thomas’s debut novel weaves a thrilling, compact story that builds dread slowly. . . . Thomas incorporates elements of science fiction as she begins to reveal the darkness at work on campus, but not before readers are eased in with some classic hallmarks of prep-school fiction.” — The Atlantic
Custom House, 9780062905659, 320pp.
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
About the Author
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.