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The Schoolhouse

On sale

5th May 2022

Price: £16.99

Polari Prize, 2023

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472156327

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

‘A literary provocateur’ Guardian

Isobel lives an isolated life in North London, working at a nearby library. She feels safe if 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 are all it takes for her ordinary, careful armour to become overwhelmed and the trauma of what happened when she was a pupil at The Schoolhouse to return.

The Schoolhouse was different – one of the 1970s experimental schools that were a reaction to the formal methods of the past. The usual rules did not apply, and life there was a dark interplay of freedom and violence, adventure and fear. Only her teenage diary recorded what happened, but the truth is coming for her and everything she has tried to protect is put at risk.

Set between the past and the present, The Schoolhouse is a masterful and gripping novel about childhood, secrets and trust.


Laura Carlin, author of The Wicked Cometh
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
Susannah Wise, author of This Fragile Earth
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
Clare Clark, Guardian
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
The Herald
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
Joanne Finney, Good Housekeeping
A tense, taut drama that questions how childhood trauma affects adult behaviour
Hephzibah Anderson, Guardian
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
Susie Goldsbrough, The Times
The Schoolhouse is a legit crime thriller: stylish, pacey and genuinely frightening . . . If only more Booker-recognised writers did stuff this fun
The Telegraph
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.