Catherine House: Book summary and reviews of Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House

A Novel

by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas X
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  May 2020
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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.

Trust us, you belong here.

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

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

"Surreal imagery, spare characterization, and artful, hypnotic prose lend Thomas's tale a delirious air, but at the book's core lies a profound portrait of depression and adolescent turmoil." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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)

"A promising but uneven debut that walks the line between speculative fiction and ghost story." - Kirkus Reviews

"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, author of Girls on Fire

"Thomas's debut novel is a dark, delicious gothic read that hits all the right spots in the best way. If you want a book you can't put down for even a second, this is it." - Forbes, The 10 Most Anticipated Books Of 2020

This information about Catherine House shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Sandi W.

Catherine House lives...
3.5 stars Thanks to Custom House for allowing me to read this ARC. Publishes May 12, 2020.

This book was different. It was the ambience, maybe, that keep pushing me on - turning pages. I did not particularly like any of the characters, but didn't dislike them either. Really uncertain as to what it was - because with most books, like this one, I would have quit it about half way through - but something in this book kept me reading. The writing itself seemed to urge me on to an unexpected conclusion.

A strange private school, called Catherine House, in the center of nowhere. Once you enter you are there until you graduate. And for some, much longer. Each class group tends to get close to and comfortable with all the others in their class. Scholastics are their prime motivation - however there are also many strange meetings and dinners that tale place. On top of that, there is the Tower... and the plasm lab!

In this book Catherine House is a character on it's own. You get to know not only the building and it's placement in the story, but also things as intimate as the wall paper in various rooms. I applaud the author Elisabeth Thomas, for being able to do that. Not all authors can take an inanimate object and make it live. Catherine House lives.

Mary O. (Boston, MA)

Unsettling page turner!
I love debut novels and this was mesmerizing. It held my attention from the first page! The backdrop of Catherine House is haunting and disturbing and you feel like you are an actor in it yourself. If you like disturbing gothic mysteries, this book is for you!

Marie J. (Naples, FL)

I found this book very interesting even though I was told I didn't have to read it. It has my attention to the end. I seldom guessed what was going to happen. Subject matter was not something I would have chosen to read about as I'm not always comfortable with it. I found the characters well developed and became involved with their personalities. I would have liked more information on the main character. One objection that I had about the book was the degree of immorality. I don't have a problem if a book has some immorality in it but I thought this was excessive. I didn't see where it added at all to the character of the book or the purpose of the book if there was a purpose. this might make me hesitate to recommend it to some of my fellow did not prevent me from reading the book and reasonably enjoying it. I do not think that the fact of where it took place and how old the characters were that it would prevent anyone from consider it a good read.

Linda M. (Lititz, PA)

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
I really enjoyed what I would describe as a YA mystery. There was a good plot and background, lots of twists and turns in between the pages. I found the construction of the characters personalities very interesting. The dynamics of roommates at the school and friends was a great plot and mystery itself.

Brad B. (Tucson, AZ)

So Much Here.
How I feel about the book 3 stars; how I thought about the book 4.5 starts. "Catherine House" is somewhere in between (or nowhere near at all) Bardugo's "Ninth House" and Tartt's "Secret History" but more Gothic.
Thomas's genius is apparent in her ability to construct and develop a place, mood, and overall vibe see: spooky and enigmatic. The plot is too slow for the average fan of thrillers and too meandering in the unknown for most but I enjoyed getting lost in the esoteric details.

Jennie R.

Impressive first novel...
I was impressed with the book overall; finishing in two days, as I found the story compelling, almost seductive. A school students attend for three years straight, with an almost guaranteed future, but with no contact from the outside and no visitors and no belongings of their own. You know there has to be a catch. The faded grandeur that was Catherine House, the brokenness of the students, and then, the plasm pins...all contributed the creepiness. I had vivid mental pictures of many of the main characters, Ines, Baby, Yaya, Theo and of course, the enigmatic Viktoria. And while I found none of them at all likable, they were interesting, edgy and smart. I left the book with a number of unanswered questions and while one part of me wanted to know more, I have an appreciation for authors who leave things to the readers’ imaginations.

...19 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Elisabeth Thomas

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.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more novels...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Razorblade Tears
    Razorblade Tears
    by S. A. Cosby
    Razorblade Tears, a thriller by S.A. Cosby, follows a pair of ex-convicts who team up to avenge the ...
  • Book Jacket: Once There Were Wolves
    Once There Were Wolves
    by Charlotte McConaghy
    In Charlotte McConaghy's second novel after her debut Migrations, environmental biologist Inti Flynn...
  • Book Jacket: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    by Alka Joshi
    Alka Joshi's The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the sequel to her 2020 bestseller The Henna Artist and ...
  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Chance Library
    by Freya Sampson

    Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous fiction won't want to miss this one!

  • Book Jacket

    Never Saw Me Coming
    by Vera Kurian

    "Fun, entertaining and hard to put down."
    The New York Journal of Books

Who Said...

A library is thought in cold storage

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.