THE GIRL BELOW by BIANCA ZANDER.
SOURCE: Received for review from ALMA BOOKS.
After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won't let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy - an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up - convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier.
But the more involved she becomes with Peggy's dysfunctional family, including Peggy's wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time - to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter...
.... Outer back cover
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1: London, 2003): It was only May, but the streets flared golden like they do in high summer, and all around me the neighbourhood sighed with so much privilege that I felt shut out - a stranger on the block where my childhood took place.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 91): I meant not to look at Madeline, nor to think of her, to focus only on where I was heading, but before I could stop myself, I had looked in her direction - and looked again, because she wasn't there. In the place she normally sat there was only a dark square on the floorboards where her dais had prevented the wood from fading.
MY THOUGHTS: What could be described as weird, The Girl Below was definitely one of those books that left me wondering just what it was all about. So much so that you may well have thought I'd rate it as a rather poor read but you'd be very much mistaken.
The story of a young woman with mental health issues, part psychological mystery, part ghost story, part time travel - or was it? Still mystified by it all, all I do know is that I thoroughly enjoyed every sentence, every chapter, every page.
Seamlessly weaving and sidetracking between time, place and the remembered. Though eventually ending up on a Greek Island Suki's story largely follows her from her childhood home in London to New Zealand and back again where she finds herself in the apartment building of her formative years, living with Peggy whose statue, Madeline unsettles her almost as much as her memories of the fateful party thrown by her parents all those years ago.
A strongly written debut novel and even more so given that though there are of course other characters, each of them well written it has to be said, this is every inch Suki's story. That it is Suki on whom the author really focuses, on whom the entire story revolves.
Dreamlike, more often than not eerie and occasionally unsettling, this is a story of relationships, a coming-of-age drama with a seriously spooky almost Gothic vibe to it. Suki a confused and troubled character in whose world I became totally if somewhat unfathomably mesmerised.
Disclaimer: Read and reviewed on behalf of publishers, Alma Books, I was merely asked for my honest opinion, no financial compensation was asked for nor given.
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