Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Girl Before, following on from onmybookshelf blog I am now bringing you my review, but before I do here’s what the book is about.
Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection…but can you pay the price?
Jane stumbles upon 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.
In the short time I’ve lived here, I’ve never found One Folgate Street a frightening place. But now, the silence and the emptiness seem to take on a more sinister hue. Ridiculous, of course – like being scared after a ghost story. All the same I select the brightest light setting and go round checking for…what? Not intruders, obviously. But for some reason, the house no longer feels quite so protective.
It feels like I’m being watched.
One Folgate Street, a house unlike any other, designed by an enigmatic architect, controlled by smart devices and with a list of rules that you must abide by to live there. Not many are able to handle the minimalist style of living but for Jane, it is this break from her usual lifestyle that she craves. However once settled into her new home, some strange things start to happen and Jane discovers that the last tenant Emma died mysteriously in the house. The more Jane searches into Emma’s death, the more she starts to see similarities in the experiences that they are having with both the house and the architect who built it. But will Jane’s fate be the same as Emma’s
Last November I had the opportunity to read and review a sample of The Girl Before, from that sample my initial impressions were that it was very reminiscent of something that you would find in a Black Mirror episode. A sort of hyper-reality, where technology is completely ingrained into the everyday life and there is a sense of impending doom. I felt that there was already a slow burn of suspense, that this was a book that would easily drag people into its world and I hoped that it would be able to deliver on its brilliant promise.
I’m pleased to say that for me it definitely has!
The Girl Before is told through dual points of view, we get to see what happened then through Emma and what is happening now through Jane. Both of the narrations run together through certain points of their experience of moving into One Folgate Street, with each character picking up where the other left off. I feel that this really adds to the pace and suspense of the book, knowing that there are so many similarities between their experiences has you questioning at which point it will differ or if it will at all. Jane and Emma’s chapters are also stylised slightly differently, which I liked as it gave Emma’s account an elapsed quality, adding to the division of then and now.
I won’t say much more about the plot as it would spoil it for anyone who wants to read it but I did begin to really feel pulled toward one conclusion and then another. Anytime I felt like I might get my bearings in the story, something else would pop up and misdirect me yet again. I loved how invested I got in the story and the characters, I would be angry at them or scared for them and if I could have been on the edge of my seat I would have been.
The concept itself I thought was very interesting, a house that controls light function, shower function, monitors your health and efficiency, alongside the question of how much could you give up to live your life in a minimal fashion. It also makes good points about security and how we are beginning to rely upon technology for more and more and how safe that actually is. I think for me that’s what made this a compulsive read, whilst you do have to suspend reality a little, there are so many elements that are authentic and when it’s set to the backdrop of a relatively normal life, it makes it quite terrifying.
I really loved this book, how Jane and Emma developed, the elements of obsession and perfectionism and how I could never tell what was going to happen next. I would definitely recommend it.
Be sure to check out the next stop on the tour tomorrow which will be over at Nut Press.
Thanks to Quercus for the review copy of this book.