This book is full of spoilers. If you are looking for a review instead, you can find one at my other blog dpresident.net.
Catherine House is a book by Elisabeth Thomas. It tells the story of a private college of the same name. The college that has been surrounded by controversy due to some of its research publications. There, students are taken in, fed and clothed, all for free. Students are all provided access to the same things but they could also get points which they could spend for extra items. They are inducted into this new world and have no contact with the outside world while in Catherine House.
A World Onto Itself
Students are meant to leave their old world behind. They forego music, film, novels, and all attachment to their past life. As a matter of fact, for most of them, their past life was traumatic. Catherine House provides escape and solace. Readers will quickly realize something strange is going on at the school.
The story is written from Ines’ perspective. She alludes to something in her past, a murder that she may have witnessed or otherwise been involved in. She seems traumatized by that event, drinking and having sex, working to keep the memory at bay. She thinks she is broken.
Indoctrination to Plasma
Ines often has stomach aches. I wonder if it was from all the sweets and wine or if the students are being drugged. They also seem to be hypnotised and experimented on. There are weekly events with chanting, and other special events where plasma pins are attached to the students.
The most prized item in the school is plasma. It is a new material, one with incredible ability to rearrange the fibres of life, both organic and inorganic. It is a concentration major and only the best students are accepted.
Ines at Catherine House
Ines floats through school. She enjoys wandering around and finding things from the other world like games and videos. She shares those with her friends. They also found a bicycle and taught her how to ride; she’d never learned before.
Ines’s roommate is Barbara, whom everyone calls Baby. She wants to study plasma and spends all her time studying. Her relaxation is to play with a lock pick set. She gets sent to the restoration center to fix her broken self. She never comes out but is rather pronounced dead.
After Baby dies, Ines can’t stand to be alone in their room. She misses Baby and takes over her lock picking practice, even though she doesn’t know why.
Theo and Ines
Ines has a group of friends that she spends a lot of time with. One of them is Theo. After circling each other for a while, Ines and Theo start dating. Theo is in the new materials concentration. The most dedicated section is in working with M. Neptune. Ines is curious about plasma and has Theo show her some of his work. They make a pact that if one of them finds out about the secret research, they would tell the other.
Staying at Catherine House
Theo wanted to stay in Catherine House and continue his research. He suggested Ines stay as well. Ines was surprised when Viktoria called her to her office and asked her if she would like to study plasma and stay at the school for the course of study. Ines finds this hard to believe, knowing she’s not a great student.
In sleuthing through Theo’s room while he slept one night, Ines had discovered a lab pass hidden in his drawer. She realized that he hasn’t kept the pact and asked a friend to sneak into the lab with her; her friend didn’t think she should stay at Catherine House and refused to be part of the adventure.
After her chat with Viktoria, Ines wanted to know what happened in the secret lab. She got the pass and accessed the lab, wearing Theo’s clothes, a hoodie over her head.
The Secret Lab
In the secret lab, Ines realized her own fears. Not only were they experimenting on animals but humans as well. She realized that one of the students was animated with plasma and Barbara was a candidate as well.
When Theo went missing, Ines realized he was in the restoration center. She confessed to M. Neptune that she had impersonated Theo. Theo was released and she was sent to the restoration center in his stead.
Imprisoned in the Restoration Center
This was Ines’ second visit but markedly different from the first one. Her first visit was for an attitude adjustment because she was failing classes and struggling at school. Then, she was treated with plasma pins and released after 5 days. In this visit, there are no plasma pins. Viktoria offers her to be a subject in the experiment, like Baby. She came to realize that Baby accepted this sacrifice; Ines needed to think about it.
Viktoria gives Ines time to decide. The choice is donation or ?? In her conversation with Viktoria, Ines realized that Theo wanted her to be an experiment. That was actually what Viktoria was offering in their previous conversation about staying at Catherine House.
You’ll always be beautiful, Theo had said to me once. That’s all he wanted for me: to be beautiful and real, forever,like Baby. He just wanted me to be happy. He wanted us to be happy. Why couldn’t I be happy?Year Three, Glo, Catherine house
The Ending of the Story
Ines got a visit from Yaya. It was the last day; the class was graduating. Ines had enough points for the visit. She brought Ines the lockpick set and told her how to count the passage of time to use it and escape through the towers back door.
Ines wasn’t sure what she should do but she decided to choose life. She escaped the tower. To get surprise, the back door was unlocked. She didn’t know if that was a mistake from when she was last left out for a shower or if the door was never locked.
Yaya had set up Ines’s escape. Bunny was in charge of the loading dock and let Ines leave the campus hidden in the back of a delivery truck. A bicycle was also in the truck so that Ines could have a way to travel once let out of the truck. The story ends with the door rolling up for the back of the truck.