Emma (past) and Jane’s (present) stories unfold concurrently as they interact with the strange new home and man in their lives.
I won’t go too far into the plot line since other reviewers summarize it quite nicely.
I’ll simply tell you that The Girl Before is a book worth reading.
In so many of the books I love, the party lines between good and evil are strongly drawn. Men (the heroes) are strong of body and of heart, and women are beautiful and pliant. I rather enjoy books like The Girl Before where the grey areas rule. Good people are flawed, and baddies aren’t as bad as we think.
Much like the house in this book makes its inhabitants reframe their everyday habits, these books make us rethink the tropes of good and evil and whether there’s even a differentiator between the two.
That’s the magic of the spate of “girl” books of late (Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Girl Before, The Good Girl). They challenge gender stereotypes, roles in relationships, and the notion of woman as a girl, someone to be protected and coddled. Turns out, it’s the world that needs to be protected from them.
I’m curious about the author’s choice not to use quotation marks in Emma’s speech. Maybe it’s a differentiator between the main characters and shows how Emma both craves and resists structure.
Here’s how the last bit of the book went for me:
“He dunnit. Wait, no he dunnit! No, maybe she dunnit after all. Or maybe it was this group of people over here wearing chicken masks and chanting ‘hail satan.’ Baaaah, so many doers!” (yes, I’m exaggerating, but still…)
The end was maybe too rushed and manic. But it was satisfying.
I’m glad the author resisted the urge to tie everything up in a happily-ever-after bow (it wouldn’t have been true to the story). I’m also glad it wasn’t one of those horrible ambiguous endings, where the author can’t seem to decide what to do and ends the story in a dot dot dot…
This fits the Goldilocks formula of being not too happy, not too obtuse, but just right.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.