Book Reviews

Book Review: The Children on the Hill

By Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date:  April 26, 2022

349 Pages

After the death of her parents, thirteen-year-old Violet Hildreth and her brother Eric, were raised by her grandmother, a preeminent psychiatrist who runs a renowned hospital in the woods of Vermont.  To the kids, she’s simply their caretaker, their beloved Gran, who is so compassionate she often brings in “strays,”  patients who finish their care at Gran’s house.

One of these strays is Iris, a girl Violet’s age who comes to live and eventually becomes part of the family, a sister Violet has always longed for.  Iris shares all their passions, including hunting monsters and The Monster Club.  But Iris’s past is a mystery; she has no memory of her time before Gran brought her home.  In her quest to help her sister find out where she came from, Violet uncovers chilling secrets about the hospital and her grandmother that will have repercussions for them all for decades to come.

This book is actually a time-slip, with events happening in 1978 and 2019, and moves between Violet and an unknown protagonist.  I say unknown because even though we know the character is one of the sisters, her real identity is kept a mystery until near the end.  Is it Violet or Iris?  We don’t know – she goes by Lizzie, a name she chose after the events of 1978 changed everyone’s life and closed the hospital for good.  I thought I had figured it out, but the author so skillfully wove events in the present with events from the past, that I questioned my conclusion several times.  Interspersed between the two narratives is chapters from a blockbuster book written about the history and infamy of the hospital.  Rather than pull away from the tension, these chapters added to it, giving necessary detail without resorting to an info dump.

“The Children on the Hill” interpreted by Wombo Dream

It’s been awhile since I read an entire book in one day.  Today was one of those days that I blew off a myriad of things I needed to do to finish this one.  I honestly didn’t see the ending coming.  Just like the 2019 protag’s identity, I thought I had it figured out, then the author tossed in a plot twist (one of many).  Finishing this book was like needing to watch the after-scenes in a movie.  I thought it was over but nope, there was another twist coming.

I loved it – for the tension and backstory as much as for the thematic play on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Final rating is 4.5 stars.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐+

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing the ARC copy of this book.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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