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The Schoolhouse

Polari Prize, 2023

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472156303

Price: £9.99

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‘A compelling, fast-moving narrative . . . delivers real emotional impact’ Telegraph

‘A literary provocateur’ Guardian

WINNER of DIVA Magazine‘s 2023 ‘Author of the Year’ Award

Isobel lives an isolated life in North London, where she works at a nearby library. She feels safe, so long as she keeps to her routines and doesn’t let her thoughts stray too far into the past. But a newspaper photograph of a missing local schoolgirl and a letter from her old teacher send her spiralling and bring back the trauma of what happened years ago, when she was a pupil at The Schoolhouse.

The Schoolhouse was a 1970s experimental school where Isobel’s days were a dark interplay of freedom and adventure, violence and fear. The only record of what happened there lies in the pages of her teenage diary.

The Schoolhouse taught Isobel that some truths must never be revealed, but as police investigating the missing girl start to ask uncomfortable questions, she realises the truth is coming for her – and it will put her, and everyone she has tried to protect, at risk.

From the Booker Prize-longlisted author of Love and Other Thought Experiments comes a masterful and gripping thriller about truth, silence, and the dead weight of the past.


The Schoolhouse is taut, gripping and intensely moving right until the very last page. I truly couldn't put Sophie Ward's beautifully written novel down
Susannah Wise, author of This Fragile Earth
Queerness and deafness sit alongside themes of resilience and trust, making for an evocative, well-paced narrative that's sure to win her new readers
Hephzibah Anderson, Guardian
Ward proves she can construct a compelling, fast-moving narrative (with an extended action-packed denouement). What's best about her novels, however, is her gift for bringing characters to life, which means that whether her writing is disconcertingly strange or, as here, treads at times on over-familiar territory, it always delivers a real emotional impact.
The Telegraph
The Schoolhouse is a real 'stand-out-from-the-crowd' book, with an absorbing plot from the get-go; part detective novel, part taut, cerebral thriller . . . A masterful rendition of the tensions and realities of human resilience and emotional frailty
Laura Carlin, author of The Wicked Cometh
A literary provocateur . . . [Ward writes with] considerable insight and humanity . . . this novel has much to say about childhood . . . Ward unpicks the damage caused not just by people intent on harm, but those around them who, blinded by idealism, prejudice or laziness, cannot see what is right before their eyes. Her anger is palpable, but so too is her compassion
Clare Clark, Guardian
The mysteries of the child's disappearance and of what scarred Isobel so deeply 15 years earlier make the book a page-turner, with some intriguing themes of trauma and abuse
The Herald
A tense, taut drama that questions how childhood trauma affects adult behaviour
Joanne Finney, Good Housekeeping
The Schoolhouse is a legit crime thriller: stylish, pacey and genuinely frightening . . . If only more Booker-recognised writers did stuff this fun
Susie Goldsbrough, The Times