Published by St. Martin's Press on March 6th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“Do you ever really know your neighbors?” This tagline from the cover of Sally Hepworth’s The Family Next Door is what initially drew me to this book and I think it very accurately sums up the overall premise of the story. No matter how long you’ve lived next door to someone, how well do you really know them? The Family Next Door’s answer to that question is quite simply: “Not nearly as much as you think you know.”
At its core, The Family Next Door is a book about secrets. Some secrets are, of course, more scandalous than others, but really – is there anyone out there who truly shares everything about themselves with everyone they meet? I know I sure don’t. And, let me tell you, any secrets I may be keeping to myself pale in comparison to those the ladies of Pleasant Court are each trying to keep under wraps. Boy, do these ladies have some dirty laundry!
First of all, especially after reading that tagline, I had to chuckle as soon as I saw that their neighborhood is called Pleasant Court. On the surface it sounds lovely, but it immediately made me think of Desperate Housewives and Wisteria Lane, which also sounded lovely and was a huge hotbed for secrets and scandals. Pleasant Court is a very family-oriented community. Most of the residents have been in Pleasant Court for years and are all raising young families. Main characters Essie, Fran, and Ange all fall into this category. Essie’s mother, Barbara, also lives there and she helps Essie out by babysitting her grandkids. The only character who doesn’t fit the typical mold of a Pleasant Court resident is the mysterious Isabelle, who is new to town, and who is also unmarried and has no children. It was almost comical to watch the “radars” of the Pleasant Court women perk up as soon as Isabelle moved in: Why would she move here? She doesn’t even have a family, etc. These ladies become thoroughly engrossed in trying to figure out the scoop on Isabelle. It was especially funny to me once I realized these ladies were the last people who should be casting stones and making judgements about someone they don’t even know.
That all sounds pretty vague, right? Well, since this is a book about secrets, there’s not much I can say about the plot without spoiling it. I think it makes for the best reading experience to go into The Family Next Door knowing as little as possible and letting the secrets these characters are hiding unfold naturally. Bottom line though: No one in Pleasant Court is as innocent as they would have you believe. Everyone, even Grandma Barbara, is lugging around a dirty secret or two!
Domestic dramas like The Family Next Door seem to be emerging as the latest trend in fiction and I have to say I enjoy these so much more than I enjoyed the unreliable/unlikeable narrator trend that books like Gone Girl started a few years ago. Even though I enjoy them, I have had one consistent complaint with so many of the recent domestic dramas I’ve read and that’s that even though the actual drama in the story is deliciously scandalous and makes for a great page turner, I usually don’t feel very invested in any of the characters. What made The Family Next Door head and shoulders over those books for me is that Hepworth actually made me care about the families in Pleasant Court.
She presents the story from the perspective of five very complicated female characters, but she fully fleshes out each character and infuses them with so much heart that even though each of them is clearly flawed, I still liked them and wanted them to be able to get past the deep, dark secrets that threatened to bury them. When each of the secrets were revealed, instead of just sitting there waiting to see whether or not the secrets destroyed lives, I was sitting there like “OMG! Damn girl, you need to fix this before it rips your family apart!”
In addition to giving me characters that I felt fully invested in, Hepworth also gave me everything else I love in a good domestic drama. The secrets were scandalous and juicy, the pacing was quick and even – no lulls at all, and Hepworth wove enough twists and turns in the storylines of each of these characters that I stayed equally interested in all five accounts all the way through the book. Even with so many characters to keep track of, there was no point along the way where I felt bored or distracted. I really wanted to know everything about all five of these characters and their secrets, and that need to know really kept me turning the pages. There were many characters and secrets to juggle, but Hepworth juggled them perfectly and crafted them into an incredibly well written and satisfying read. I easily breezed through the book in less than two days.
None at all!
If you’re into stories that have a Desperate Housewives, Big Little Lies kind of vibe, I think this book would be a good fit for you. This was my first time reading a novel by Sally Hepworth but it definitely will not be my last!
A gripping domestic page-turner full of shocking reveals, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Amanda Prowse and Kerry Fisher.
The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbor grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.