Published by Macmillan on April 5th 2016
Buy on Amazon
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.
“We went down, and at the bottom there was a door, and on the door there was a sign. Two words. ‘Be Sure.’ Sure of what? We were twelve, we weren’t sure of anything. So we went through.”
This book is exactly my kind of weird.
I have to try and explain Every Heart a Doorway somehow, but it isn’t easy. It’s a kind of dark, creepy fairy tale about all those children who slipped through the cracks – a wardrobe, a rabbit hole, or a simple doorway – and found themselves somewhere else; somewhere no one would believe they’d been. No one, that is, except Eleanor West.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is where despairing parents send their troubled kids. The ones who claim to have been to a different world. Eleanor West promises to help them, and she does, just not in the way the parents imagine. Because Eleanor has been to her own world and she knows the sadness and loss these children experience when they are dragged back to the “real” world. She offers them a place where they can be believed.
Very atmospheric and strange, but also full of wit and humour, this story is just damn near perfect. I loved the eerie style of writing, and the diverse cast of characters that included an asexual protagonist and a boy who is transgender. There’s also a whole lot of creepy murder going on.
It’s such a strange little book and I genuinely enjoyed both the writing and the insights into human behaviour. For example, Lundy’s response to Nancy’s question about why there are more girls than boys:
“Because ‘boys will be boys’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Lundy. “They’re too loud, on the whole, to be easily misplaced or overlooked; when they disappear from the home, parents send search parties to dredge them out of swamps and drag them away from frog ponds. It’s not innate. It’s learned. But it protects them from the doors, keeps them safe at home. Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”
There are many, often subtle, nods toward gender issues. And there’s a rather hilarious moment when Nancy’s roommate asks if she minds that she masturbates. I love how the book manages to be comical and serious, dark and light, fairy tale and psychological thriller, all at the same time.
Many of these kids just want to get back to their home, their real home, the place where they truly feel like they belong. How hard it is to live in this world while knowing that somewhere out there is a doorway that leads to where you’re supposed to be. But, as Nancy finally comes to realize:
“Nobody gets to tell me how my story ends but me.”