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Publisher's Summary

“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 best-selling author of Wilder Girls

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. 

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 audiobook with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave listeners breathless. 

©2020 Elisabeth Thomas (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

Featured Article: Get Lost in the Drama and Intrigue of Dark Academia


Both an aesthetic and a subgenre of fiction, dark academia explores morally gray characters with impious or evil intentions set against the backdrop of beautiful, hallowed, and unsettling boarding schools and university campuses. The dark academia subgenre encompasses everything from murder mysteries to horror and fantasy, so there's a little something in it for everyone. From angst-filled fiction to brooding novels, we've rounded up the very best listens.

Editor's Pick

An immersive, unsettling debut
As we enter another month of sheltering in place, I find it strangely soothing to hear about other people in close quarters: astronauts, maritime explorers, and, of course, boarding school students. So I’m grateful that Elisabeth Thomas’s much-anticipated debut novel was not among the new releases delayed by the pandemic. Named for an elite school where students are completely sequestered from the outside world, Catherine House is centered on Ines, who’s escaping a mysterious past—but soon finds her plush environs pose an even greater danger. With its Gothic setting, bewitching narration by Inés del Castillo, diverse characters, and LGBTQIA+ representation, Catherine House should get early acceptance into the canon of great prep school lit.

What listeners say about Catherine House

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Not worth a credit - don’t bother

The reader is quite good, given that the books goes on and on about nothing. The Editors play up this book as a suspense story. ...yawn...not even close. It’s a story about almost NOTHING - hence very little story. Don’t bother!

9 people found this helpful

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I couldn’t endure this again ...

The editors write up on this book was compelling. Unfortunately it was describing some other book entirely. I kept waiting for the story to live up to expectations, but the story simply rambled on and the story line never materialized. I’m entirely annoyed I wasted my time and a credit on this one.

9 people found this helpful

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Underdeveloped and disappointing

First, the narrator, Ines del Castillo does a great job. I'm 95% sure she's the only reason I kept listening and liked this to the degree that I did.

The premise of the book is strong. Secluded college. Hand picked students who weather a multiple stage application and interview process. A promise of alumni who run the world. A mysterious element of a hidden science that the college alone owns and studies, kept from the rest of the world and is it real or is it nonsense?

The execution. I mean, dang. I wanted so much more. I kept thinking the book would fill in. The plot points would link together more. Let me save you the 11 hours. It doesn't. The characters are underdeveloped. There's a surface explanation of why the students stay. But the faculty? The staff? Why are they keeping this big secret? What bonds all these folks to together? The paranormal element just gets dropped in there, but there is no explanation of how it works, why it works, even what it is or what they are actually trying to do. It's just there. It's a secret. Don't ask too many questions. That extends to the reader and the antagonists as well. There's no plot development and certainly no resolution. I still am befuddled how this bizarre college experience supposedly turns out the king makers of the world. Throughout their time at Catherine House, characters actively avoid talking about what they are experiencing at Catherine House. They barely know each others names outside of their 3 friends. That suddenly turns into a vast connected alumni network at graduation? Do alumni still get treatments after graduation? Or the college treatments had a lasting impact? None of this is answered. It's just one of many glaring plot holes.

And then the book ends. Just ends. Not a single thing explained or resolved, but not in some grand allegorical kind of way. Just in a way that makes you go, none of this made sense, not a single bit.

It was fine. I listened to it all. I wish I checked it out from the library. It definitely wasn't worth a credit and I would never suggest anyone else read it.

6 people found this helpful

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Kudos to the Editorial Team

I’m not sure what book they described, but this was not it. I gave up with three hours left. Since I don’t really have anything positive to write, let me just conclude with DO NOT BUY this book. You will be bored to death.

6 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

I was really looking forward to this. The story is set up in a such a perfect environment but ultimately every mystery or major conclusion ends with a thud. Pretty much the novel is about a really hot, slutty girl who doesn’t have that much of a personality. She’s curious about the right stuff but so indecisive and unemotional at certain points I had to rewind to make sure I was understanding what was going on. In fact I’m not even sure if the “villain” in this novel was really that bad?

“Ines finally got the door open. Was it ever locked?”

There are a lot of pointless & creepy innuendo that lead to nothing, and tons of food descriptions just for fun.

This novel didn’t scare me, it made me hungry. For food. And a better story.

6 people found this helpful

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It was alright

I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend, but I didn’t hate it. The lack of emotion from all characters, but especially the main character made it the most unlikeable for me.

5 people found this helpful

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Major plot gaps

This book could have easily had 100 more pages. There’s so much missing in character development, leaving me to build them in my mind as if preparing for film acting. The film, if it gets there, may actually be better. It alludes to, although stated verbatim, that slums of Catherine House are some of powerful world leaders. There’s no evidence, storyline outside of the house to exhibit that magnitude. Really great marketing by publishers these days. I presume she’ll have several “airport” books like those of James Patterson for years to come—trite, predictable.

4 people found this helpful

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Y A vibes

This book could have been shorter, the main character more likeable - but I still enjoyed the writing. Not a book for everyone.

2 people found this helpful

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Mixed bag

Catherine House tries to be a lot of things, and because of this, ultimately is less impressive than it could have been. I don't mind mixing and blending genres when it's done in a way that creates something new and interesting or serves the story, but here, genres are mixed without reason and resulting in a muddy story that takes the slow-burn to tortoise speeds. The biggest problem with Catherine House is that it is not engaging. You don't feel for any of the characters, nor is the mystery that eyebrow-raising. Had it all come together in a mind-blowing conclusion, it would have been worth it. However, that's not the case here. By the time it ended, I felt like *I* had spent three-years at Catherine House, and not in the totally absorbed in the story kind of way, and I wanted those eleven hours back. Characters spend more time naked, eating, and talking about food than engaged in the mystery or doing anything remotely interesting-or worth reading/writing about.

Reads more like a first draft of something that could be interesting, but as a final, published work is less than memorable.

1 person found this helpful

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Oh, man. What was that?

I picked this up for book club, and at first I was pretty engaged. But as time went on I realized I was basically listening to a readout of someone’s journal, kept over 3 years. Things happened, time passed, maybe something weird was going on, and then it was another day. People were drunk, they had sex, maybe they went to class. Repeat.

Nothing happened. I really wished there had been a plot, but nothing was fleshed out. The characters had back stories we didn’t explore (which is explained), but they also didn’t develop much, if at all, over time. I was disappointed.

I thought the reader was great; if anything she’s the reason I finished a book that I shouldn’t have.