The Children’s House
Vintage, $32.99 pb, 296 pp, 9780143791188
What are the limits of maternal love? How do children fare in its absence? Is mothering a socialised behaviour or a biological impulse? These are the questions Alice Nelson pursues in her second novel, The Children’s House, which draws its title from the name given to the separate quarters alloted to children in the communal child-rearing characteristic of life in kibbutzim in Israel. The idea underpinning this parenting model is utopian, egalitarian, and socialist: the community, rather than the mother or father, assumes responsibility for the child; the parents, alleviated from the financial burden of caretaking, are free to pursue bonding and love in a way that capitalist imperatives preclude.