The Family Upstairs - Lisa Jewell

Review :

BOTM pick for November 2019!

"It all happened so slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly, the change to our parents, to our home, to our lives after they arrived. But that first night, when Birdie appeared on our front step with two large suitcases and a cat in a wicker box, we could never have guessed the impact she would have, the other people she would bring into our lives, that it would all end the way it did.

We thought she had just come to stay for the weekend."

Gather round children, and lend an ear. If you are on the gothic psychological suspense train, and you're looking for something to read in the same vein as Ruth Ware or V.C. Andrews, then this is your stop. The Family Upstairs is unsettling, atmospheric, and dare I say a tad bit taboo I find those three traits to be the trifecta of a devilishly chilling read, and if you're like me, this needs to be on your must read list.

The reader determines quickly that the narrative is structured through three different points of view, although we aren't told how they correlate until later in the story, and this works extremely well here. I honestly don't think the story would have been quite the same if any minor tweaking had been done to the particular perspectives we are privy to, as we get just enough information into the past and present to answer all the major questions, while also allowing the reader to use their imagination to fill in some minor blanks as well. If you're the type of person who doesn't like an open-ended story, but also isn't a fan of the neat and tidy package upon conclusion, you'll appreciate what Jewell has done with this story.

I'm aware it's already been mentioned above, but I can't emphasize enough what a delight it was to read a story that felt like a modern day V.C. Andrews novel. Obviously the similarities in dysfunctional family dynamics and suffocating atmosphere of the gothic tone are clear, but there are so many minor easter eggs that felt a tribute to that unique style of storytelling. The overall vibe of this one feels much darker than Lisa's previous novels, but I think she's taken a leap of faith in good conscience and found that she writes just as well in this genre as she does in domestic suspense and women's fiction.

Yes, yes, I've kept this review vague, spoiler free, and frustratingly neutral in tone, but that's only because I'd like for you to have the chance to read this book for yourself without any influence from my thoughts. If you're a fan of the author's previous novels, you definitely need to read this. If you're new to her work, this is a GREAT piece to start with. The characters are wonderfully flawed, the story is unpredictable, and the unsettling nature of the content inside is sure to chill even the most experienced reader of psychological thrillers. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy!

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