The Girls

the girls

The Girls
by Lisa Jewell

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Clare and her two daughters, Grace and Pip, move into their new home after Clare’s husband and the girls’ father suffers a mental breakdown. At first communal living seems idyllic, but is isn’t long before it becomes apparent that the arrival of the two girls has upset the natural balance of relationships in the gardens. Things become more oppressive until one evening one of the girls is found unconscious and no-one seems to know what has happened. As dark secrets of the residents are uncovered, the unsolved murder of a young girl 30 years previously is drawing parallels with the present day.

I love the characters in this book. Pip, who tells the some of the story and is wise beyond her years. Her letters to her absent father give us a deeper insight into Pip and her family. The other main storyteller is Adele, she is the mother of 3 home-schooled girls and the wife of Leo who seems to be at the centre of everything. She sometimes wonders, as do we all at one time or another, if she really knows anyone of her family. Then there is Clare, who is finding adapting to communal life difficult after a traumatic period in her life and constant worrying about her girls. And Rhea who has lived on the gardens most of her life watches the comings and goings with a knowing eye, befriending Pip and giving Adele a lot to think about.

This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I have read. the premise really drew me in and it certainly didn’t let me down. The characters are wonderfully real with flaws and secrets and lies, but also kindness and goodness; the author makes sure that it is difficult to separate the two. Lisa Jewell keeps the suspense going from the first page to the last, the descriptions of the gardens are superbly atmospheric, the long summer nights brought to life effortlessly.

This is a dark complicated story of human interaction with a dark message behind it which is very apt for 2015: problems occur when you try to hide away from the world. However well-meaning, people cutting themselves off from social interaction with all but a small group causes them to become insular and wary, and no good can come of it.

I would highly recommend this book.
****1/2

Many thank to the publishers for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

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