Charles Bailey

Growing Pains

The Children's Home

By Charles Lambert

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The premise of Charles Lambert’s The Children’s Home is deceptively simple: children have started magically appearing on the estate of a severely disfigured and misanthropic gentleman called Morgan. A mystery is established. It would be reasonable to expect the rest of this short novel to go about solving it, but instead the unexplained expands: the children are clairvoyant and able to disappear at will; the source of Morgan’s wealth is obscure (there are hints that it comes from a munitions factory); the housekeeper, Engel, knows more than she is letting on; two guards from ‘the ministry of welfare’ (straight out of Franz Kafka’s The Trial) are searching for stray children; Morgan finds a mask that remoulds his face to hide his disfigurement; a waxwork of a pregnant woman is found, and then worshipped, by the children; outside the estate, a devastating but unremarked-on war has occurred. In answer to the question with which the novel ends, ‘Have you learned nothing from all this?’, I would have to say, ‘Yes – I’m more confused than when I started.’ 

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