Review: THE GIRL BEFORE, JP Delaney
“I am torn while writing this review.”
Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?
Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.
I’m ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, it definitely kept me guessing and reading right up until the end. A few times I tried to give up on it because I was annoyed for various reasons with it. But curiosity brought me back to it every time.
The storyline weaves past with present as two women, both tenants of One Folgate Street, tell their stories. And here I come to my first issue with the book – and I hasten to add that this is totally an issue of personal taste. The sections written in the past were all told in reported speech. There wasn’t a single speech mark, and it made it hard reading for me. It interrupted the flow because I couldn’t stop myself putting speech marks in. That’s my problem, because of years editing people’s copy, and probably won’t matter a jot to many people, but the fact remains that it spoiled my reading experience. Perhaps with speech marks, I’d have found the storyline easier to get into.
Perhaps the slow reading is what also created my next problem… The characters are unlikeable. Now, this hasn’t stopped me enjoying many other novels; sometimes it’s fun to dislike a character. But dislike implies a connection of some form, and I couldn’t form a connection with any of the characters in this book.
It also shouldn’t matter that the author is a man, writing mainly from female perspectives. This has happened countless times and doesn’t generally bother me at all – but I could TELL it had been written by a man, and that’s the problem. He didn’t get the characters quite right, in my opinion.
Ultimately, though, the novel was compelling enough to keep me reading, so it definitely has plus points. There were twists and turns, that pulled me on almost despite myself. Now, that is impressive writing, surely.
So you can see why I am torn while writing this review.
Regardless of my opinion, this is a book that is going to be a huge success. It has already been earmarked for a film, by Ron Howard, no less. So, if you’re curious, check this book out. If not, there are plenty more books out there…