Saturday, 5 March 2016

Review: The Girls by Lisa Jewell

Book: The Girls

Author: Lisa Jewell  

Pages: 416

Read: Kindle Edition

Read in: A day and a half off and on

Plot Summary: You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Things I Liked: Quick List: 

1. The premise of the book, the world building (the community of people who live around the garden) and the families depicted in this book are all interesting. The premise hooked me first when I saw this book on Amazon and decided to get it- a young girl found unconscious in a place surrounded by familiar neighbours... what could have happened to her? Who could have done this to her? Lots of questions were raised and as we go through the book, these questions and the multiple possible answers are built up quite well. 

2. There were some interesting characters in this book. Pip, the younger sister of the victim (Grace), was my most favourite character. Pip is almost 12 and it is through her eyes and her letters to her dad that we get to learn about the dynamics of the group of almost-teens that hang out in the garden, the various grown-ups that Pip and Grace interact with and so on. Pip is vulnerable but also highly sensible and I loved how she was smart enough and cautious enough to not get into what very obviously seemed like a very tight-knit group of friends. 

3. Of the grown-ups, the only ones to whom any sort of character-building justice was done was Adele- the home-schooling mother of three girls- Catkin, Fern and Willow. Adele is a kind, nice, sensitive and smart woman, who goes out of her way to help people, even when she knows the truth about them. 

4. The almost-teens 'garden clique' comprised of the three sisters- Catkin, Fern and Willow- plus a girl called Tyler (whose mother pretty much leaves her to fend for herself) and a boy called Dylan are interesting but so much more could have been done with them. They all seemed more like cardboard cutouts and less like real people. Though, to be fair, from an outsiders' perspective, which is what the author employs for most of the book, that's how these enigmatic group of teens would seem like... 

Things I Didn't Like: This book was a huge let-down, especially post the 80% mark. 

1. First of all, in the same garden, almost 25-30 years ago, another teenaged girl was found mysteriously dead. This fact was revealed to us fairly early on in the book and then.. nothing! Grace's attack was very similar to Phoebe's all those years ago and the author does not go into it at all. Adele is shown as trying to make some enquiries and ask some questions about Phoebe's death and the possible involvement of her husband- Leo- in it but it all comes to nothing. This was a huge missed opportunity and the author just let it be... 

2. There was a lot of time spent on trying to paint two characters as potential pedophiles. A lot of time and pages, but once we know what the crime was (what had happened to Grace), it was all a huge let down and a really pointless red herring! I am all for red herrings in crime fiction but this was just so ridiculous! 

3. The real perpetrators of the crime were obvious but one had written them off because it was so obvious! Their motivation for the crime was so lame and then they pretty much get away scot free! It's ridiculous!!! 

4. There is a lot of food for thought in this book (supposedly) on different styles of parenting.. Adele who lets her daughters be, home schools them, lets them read what they want and go where they want in the garden etc. and Clare (Pip and Grace's mom) and her need to check up on the girls constantly and want them home before dark and so on.. however, what was really ridiculous was how much freedom these tweens had to do what they pleased and stay out late without their moms really knowing what exactly they were up to- alcohol, drugs and sexual things! For such a small community where these kids hang out in that garden all the time, this level of cluelessness of the parents is truly alarming! 

5. Finally, the author has attempted to build up the 'garden' like an ominous, brooding presence... and has FAILED! First of all, there isn't enough that she has described about the garden so that it comes alive for a reader who is not familiar with such communal gardens in the UK.. she has failed to bring it alive or even describe it adequately! Additionally, there is nothing ominous about the garden at all.. it seems perfectly charming! 

Rating: 2.5/5 
This is a good book as it builds up the mystery quite well but the last 20% of it is a huge let-down. 

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