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Book Review: The Girl Before by JP Delaney #TheGirlBefore #TheBloggerBefore Blog Tour

I’m taking part in #TheBloggerBefore blog tour today to celebrate the publication of psychological thriller The Girl Before which came out on Thursday. #TheBloggerBefore me was Raven whose review you can read on her gorgeous blog everywhereandnowhere.

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.

The Girl Before opens on a situation (one past, the other happening in the present) most of us will have experienced: a letting agent is showing a woman (and in the past version, a woman and her partner) around flats within their budget in London. It’s a disheartening, and often demoralising, experience. And then, as letting agents often do, they save the best property to last: one within budget which is architect-designed and uses state-of-the-art technology to adapt and respond to the homeowner(s). Would they like to see it?

Naturally both women jump at the opportunity and while one sees it for the security it can offer her and the other admires its clean lines and beauty, both view it as a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew. It feels as if it’s a house of second chances. But even if the rent is within their budgets, they first have to pass the rigorous vetting procedure and interview with the owner/architect before making One Folgate Street their home. And once installed in this admittedly beautiful but austere minimalism, they’ll have an extensive set of rules to adhere to, together with regular check ups to complete which affect the availability of some of the amenities. I’m pretty certain that even if I had passed the initial vetting process by some miracle, I would have fallen foul of only being allowed to have one stack of books kept in perfect alignment at all times! The opening question is one to ponder though:

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

Told in dual narrative by Jane in the present and Emma in the past, I was quickly drawn into their lives in this strange new home that is One Folgate Street. I was as much intrigued as they were by the architect behind the design and continually asked myself who would want a house like this, not only striving for perfection in his vision but also in its realisation by deliberate and careful selection of the person to live within it. I confess to finding it amusing that a man called Monkford built a modern-day cell and lived a disciplined but far from monastic life himself. I found the reliance on technology in such a build concerning and a portend of where problems may arise.

As I read further, I became aware of where the vulnerabilities were, the places where cracks might appear, and reminded of how perfection is rarely attainable or maintained, once achieved. This not only applies to the house or the technology but more especially to the people within this story: human beings are flawed creatures and the characters in The Girl Before are no exception, and its this which gives the book its real edge and ultimately drives the story. That’s not to say I didn’t have to suspend my disbelief at times, either that or lose my faith in humanity, given the scheming and manipulation that’s rife in The Girl Before. But to balance that, there’s a good dollop of unreliable narrator and misdirection, both of which I enjoyed enormously. I felt as if I was getting a reading workout, trying to sift through everyone’s versions and wonder what was true and what was simply their take, or twist, on the truth. And where at first I worried that this was going to be a novel where women were the vulnerable and its victims, The Girl Before chooses to go beyond this.

The Girl Before is a scarily addictive illustration of how we might long for perfection but can’t help but cheat and cut corners and keep repeating our mistakes. It makes you question your reliance on the technology in your own life, and how vulnerable to attack or manipulation it leaves you. It’s also a chilling novel of obsession and compulsion: about the stories people tell themselves and each other, the truths they construct and come to believe, the relationships they form and our innate ability to self destruct, the manipulative games they play, games of power and control, energy and vulnerability, discipline and distortion, deceit and charm, and truth and lies in all their many shades from white through grey to black. The only clean lines are those in the architecture of One Folgate Street. Everything else here blurs as The Girl Before plays with your mind. Which makes it a book I can’t help but recommend you read.

And now I’m handing over the baton to Janel at Keeper of Pages as #TheBloggerBefore tour continues, so be sure to call in there tomorrow and see what she makes of #TheGirlBefore and if she agrees with #TheBloggerBefore.

The Girl Before by JP Delaney is published by Quercus Books and is out now in hardback and as an ebook and audiobook. It is available from Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop) and Waterstones. The Girl Before is the first psychological thriller from JP Delaney, a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. It is being published in thirty-five countries. A film version is being brought to the screen by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard. 

To celebrate publication book bloggers are taking part in #TheBloggerBefore blog tour which links together a unique chain of blogger reviews by linking to the blogger before and after them. Here are details of all the participating blogs:

 

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