Available nationwide from 2 July.
A closed London suburban community, centred around a developed common garden is the least place to expect anything out of the ordinary. Some families are of three generations of residency around its border. Children use the garden and its planned areas for play and exploration. All seems peaceful.
Until a disturbing incident reveals their dubious background and events from the past are dragged into the here and now.
The most recently arrived residents – Grace and her daughters Grace and Pip – have brought with them their own story and trauma. As the two girls are gradually accepted by the Garden’s children, their mother is drawn into socialising with other parents. Over months we become more and more uneasy about the manner of each resident’s stories.
We follow Clare’s experiences among the community as she learns more about them and their past interaction: a man with a reputation, an elderly woman who has observed it all, a child neglected by her mother, the family whose three daughters are home-schooled, a young boy who cares for his adult brother’s welfare. Both Clare and Adele (the home-schooling mother) are drawn into following the trail of the children’s play, and in doing so learn of events more and more disturbing.
At first, in spite of the crime occurring in the first chapter, the domesticity of each family seemed of little interest. But as the back story worked its way through the lead up to the crime, I was drawn into the same feelings of worry felt by any protective mother, as Clare discovers more and more detail about her neighbours and their children. On reading through to the end, I have to adjudge the writer’s ability to entangle a reader in the mesh of the community as being superbly deceptive and enthralling. I am glad I had the opportunity to read Lisa Jewell’s thirteenth novel – and have a lot of catch up reading to do now.
Reviewed by Lynn McAnulty-Street
Published by Century, for Penguin Random House
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Book Review: The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell
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It’s 1 October folks, which means Booksellers Gift Cards are available at these stores nationwide
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This enjoyable book tells the story of two generations of the Bird family – from their close-knit family unit to their scattering to the winds as the children grew into adulthood, and how events drag them back into each others lives.
The story is told at pace, and moves back and forth in time, switching between narrators and storytelling style (some of the most illuminating episodes are in email form). Jewell teases the reader, slowly revealing different facets of the family mystery, and several times during the book I thought I had things worked out, only to realise that if I couldn’t possibly – I wasn’t far enough in for a “big reveal”. The plot arc is familiar without being predictable, which keeps the read comfortable without being boring.
I didn’t particularly empathise with any of the characters, and some I found unlikeable or just plain bewildering – which isn’t the impediment to enjoyment that you might suppose. It did feel like a family that could exist in real life, in some ways – you can’t pick your relations, after all – but some of the decisions made by some of the characters felt a bit melodramatic or soap-opera-ish.
The ending also felt a bit too neat, in the way that a TV series that’s been cancelled has to wrap up all the loose ends – without giving anything away to readers of this review, there was a lot more generosity displayed than I suspect would happen in real life. But hey, it’s not a documentary after all … and reading this novel had the additional benefit of ensuring that I started my spring cleaning and clear-out early, and that I did a more thorough job than usual. And if you want to know what that means, get yourself down to your local bookstore to pick up a copy yourself.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
The House We Grew Up In
by Lisa Jewell
Published by Century (Random House)