This month Reading Group Roundup reports from several PRG groups that have recently read Nicci French’s psychological thriller, House of Correction. The author’s name is actually the pseudonym of husband and wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French who have written over 20 books together.
‘…now the person who had abused her was dead. Mr Rees the maths teacher. Stuart Rees her neighbour. The pillar of his little community. His body in her shed, his car parked outside, his blood all over her. She bit her lip so hard that she tasted iron in her mouth. She put her hands over her eyes to make the darkness darker. She couldn’t remember that day, or only a few snatches. It had been a day of wild weather, and of a crouching fear. The kind of day that she had to crawl blindly through, just to get to the end.’
Tabitha is accused of murder. She is in prison awaiting trial. She is alone, frightened and confused. But somehow, from the confines of her cell, she needs to prove everyone wrong.
The New York Times named House of Correction a Best Book to Give and described it as ‘booby-trapped with twists, the floors paved with trapdoors, quicksand churning in the garden. Enter if you dare.’
But what did our groups think of it? The women at Send read it ‘remotely’ before they could meet face to face again. They had sent full and very impressive written feedback but were delighted to be able to get together and discuss it in person at the first ‘live’ meeting in two years. They were also very pleased to get a personal email from Nicci French to thank them for their written comments.
Books about prison tend to divide prison readers. Some enjoy reading with the expert eye of experience and often conclude ‘that would never happen’. Others prefer books that help them escape. As a member at Warren Hill put it, ‘We’re here all the time, why would we want to read about it?’ By contrast, Askham Grange readers loved it:
‘This book is fantastic!’
‘I could relate to a lot of it and it had you guessing right to the end.’
‘I would recommend this book to anyone’.
More than anything, and like all the best reading group books, House of Correction got things going:
‘As soon as members came into the room they started talking about the book and what they thought of it. It was good to see one of our new members finding a place in the group and a reminder that being part of the the book club is a good way of meeting people and having a shared conversation.’