Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Rating: 2 out of 5.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse | Books and travelling with Lynn

The Sanatorium has been a widely talked about novel since it was released, so of course I had to pick up a copy and see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, this novel was a real mixed bag for me.

Set in an isolated hotel in the Swiss Alps (recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium), this novel tells the story of Elin, a British detective who is on leave when she visits the hotel to celebrate her estranged brother’s engagement. Elin is actually there to confront him about a dark incident in their past, but things get off track when her brother’s fiancé goes missing, there’s an avalanche, and then a body turns up.

Let’s start with the bits I liked about this book: it kept me reading. I found the premise interesting, and I wanted to know what was happening.

But the pacing in this novel felt really off, and it felt too long. I kept saying to my boyfriend that I felt like I was reading loads of the book and simultaneously making no progress – it was an odd reading experience. It felt very much at times that a lot was happening but none of it really mattered or was progressing the story? It’s hard to explain.

My biggest disappointment though was in the reveal itself – though I figure out the who, I had no idea of the why. Until the really cliched ‘reveal all’ by the villain where they explained their motives… which were completely absurd in terms of the relation between why they did it and what they did. It was nonsensical and long-winded and it just ruined the book for me.

The characters (especially the boyfriend and brother) were not very well developed, though I have come to expect this in a lot of thrillers… but considering the brother was part of Elin’s backstory and one big thread of the novel, it confused me that we knew so little about him. There also seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies/things that were never explained – and I don’t know whether this was accidental, or whether it’s purposeful because of that epilogue.

The epilogue confused me the most – I can’t work out if it’s a teaser for a second book or whether it was supposed to be related to the first. After the let-down of the info-dump ending, this epilogue was like the second nail in the coffin for me.

The writing is atmospheric, and I liked the premise a lot, but I thought this book could’ve been shorter and sharper, and the info-dump from the villain at the end was just too much for me.

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