Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'The Children’s House' by Alice Nelson

Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'The Children’s House' by Alice Nelson

The Children’s House

by Alice Nelson

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.

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Sarah Holland-Batt

Sarah Holland-Batt

Sarah Holland-Batt's most recent book of poems is The Hazards (UQP, 2015), which was winner of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Poetry and was shortlisted in the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, the NSW Premier's Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, the AFAL John Bray Memorial Poetry Prize, and the Queensland Literary Awards Judith Wright Calanthe Award. She is the editor of The Best Australian Poems 2016 (Black Inc.), is poetry editor of Island, and works as an Associate Professor at QUT.

Published in October 2018, no. 405

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