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John Burnside's first novel, his profoundly disturbing and beautifully written story of scientific curiosity gone awry

As a child, Luke’s mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals – tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke’s obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke’s own children.

Reviews

Compelling reading

Scotsman

A wonderfully disturbing book - chillingly focused and lyrically amoral with moments of remarkable stillness and beauty. A poetic novel in the best and most troubling sense

A. L. Kennedy

Burnside's prose is exquisite and he dissects his themes with delicacy to produce a novel resonant with poetic menace

Sunday Times

An exceptionally sinister book... It is the story of Luke, whose experiments into the nature of human language are recounted with all the beguiling reasonableness of the highly intelligent madman... The horror is tempered and fine-tuned by the exceptional beauty of Burnside's writing... In Luke, Burnside has produced one of the most chilling voices in recent fiction

Times Literary Supplement

My favourite book of the year

Jen Campbellâ??s vlog

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781784870119

    August 15, 2015

    Vintage Classics

    224 pages

    RRP $19.99

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  • EBook

    9781446412237

    January 4, 2011

    Vintage Digital

    224 pages

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