The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Enjoyable story with some aspects that were fascinating but I didn’t connect to any of the characters and as a result the whole thing left me a little bit cold.
It’s well written however with plenty of twists and turns and reminded me a lot of The Girl on the Train. I think this is a book a lot of people will really love. It just unfortunately didn’t quite work for me.
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.
No books, no clutter or personal effects. I have to admit my first thought on reading these rules for living at One Folgate Street was “are you mad, who would agree to that” (but then I am a bit of a hoarder) however, this house with its incredibly long list of rules and requirements was by far the most fascinating element of this story for me.
While I personally couldn’t give up my mountains of books I can kind of see the attraction of living in a house like One Folgate Street. For Emma, the girl before, it represents somewhere safe where she can recover from an attack but also somewhere she can use to show off to her friends. For Jane, in the present day, it also offers sanctuary from a personal tragedy and a chance to make some changes to her life. However what’s supposed to be a sanctuary becomes something a lot more creepy and sinister. Emma winds up dead and Jane seems to be heading down the same path.
Minimalist to the extreme, the house uses the latest technology to keep everything running but also to monitor the tenants through a series of questionnaires and statistics gathered. It’s a house that makes a statement and that statement was “big brother is watching you” as far as I was concerned.
The house was designed by equally creepy architect Edward Monkton who gets to approve every tenant of the property. Like One Folgate Street he’s very precise, mysterious and controlling and seems to take a little bit too much interest in his tenants (who all seem to be female and rather similar looking).
It’s quite a twisty and dark story as you can probably guess and nothing is as it seems. The narrative flips back and forth between Jane in the current day and Emma in the past. Seeing the parallels in their stories makes for some chilling reading particularly knowing the final outcome for Emma (although not the reason).
Where I struggled however was with the characters of Emma and Jane. For me to become invested in a story I have to care about the main character and that just didn’t happen for some reason. There was nothing I could relate to and a lot of the time I really didn’t understand their actions. I also felt like it was a little bit slow in places and there wasn’t enough made of certain elements that could have brought a more interesting twist to the story, particularly towards the end.
These are probably niggles very much unique to me however as I think a lot of people will really enjoy this story. It did remind me in a lot of ways of The Girl on the Train (which unfortunately was another story I didn’t enjoy because of unlikeable characters) so please don’t let my review put you off.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC
3 thoughts on “Review: The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney”
I agree with you on the characters, but I ended up really liking this one! I guess I liked the ending!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I wasn’t sure about the ending although it was good to see a certain character was a bit more manipulative than they initially seemed.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great review! You’re not the first that hasn’t been blown away by this one, which makes me feel slightly less bad for not getting the ARC. 😉 Unlikeable characters are always tricky since the story has to be REALLY good to enjoy it anyway.
LikeLiked by 1 person