Sometimes you hear about a book, and for a reason that is impossible to put your finger on, you feel drawn to it immediately. I am a person with dozens, if not hundreds, of books on my to-be-read list, but when I heard The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune reviewed in a YouTube video by one of my favourite bookish creators, I looked it up immediately. I found that I had instant access to the audio book through my Scribd account and started to listen that same day. It ended up being one of the few novels I have given a five star rating in 2020, and I am convinced that it is the perfect literary companion for lock down.
The House in the Cerulean Sea follows the quiet protagonist Linus Baker, who is a case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. His role usually consists of monotonous paperwork and awkward interactions with his unlikable colleagues. However, at the opening of our narrative Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and allocated a unique and highly classified opportunity. He is assigned the task of observing an orphanage on an isolated island which supposedly houses the most dangerous magical youth of the current day.
What follows is a charming and heartwarming story that explores acceptance and what it means to be different in a world that doesn’t understand you. The story of Linus and the six children he forms a relationship with is reminiscent of work such as Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, with a sprinkle of writing from Lemony Snicket. In addition, it has notably excellent LGBT+ representation.
This novel plays with the ever-endearing concept of found families and the cautious, gentle blossoming of love. The gradual and humane character development that Klune crafts is exquisite, and I found that the pacing and plot of the novel was flawless. The message that The House in the Cerulean Sea extends to its reader is entirely pertinent to the painful and unforgiving societies that we are currently operating in all over the world. Linus and the residents of the orphanage display the empathy that we should aspire to share in 2020.
If you opt to read this novel, I highly recommend investing in the audio book. The narrator did an admirable job of capturing Linus’ tone and inner monologue, and providing each child with a unique and memorable voice. The experience of listening to this novel was pure joy, and as I reached the final chapter, I cried with happiness. It is no easy feat for a book to make me cry, but I fell in love with every single word that Klune placed on the page. The House in the Cerulean Sea is comforting, like a warm hug from that friend you’ve been missing since lock down began.
Words by Ellie Robson
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