Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.
The Girl Before (not to be confused with the other girl before) has been talked about for months. I remember seeing reviews for this novel almost every week and I couldn’t wait to read it myself. No one doubts it’ll be a great success and there’s already a film in the works (directed by Ron Howard, who in my opinion seems a rather odd choice, but who knows!). Plus, almost everyone I know in this blogging world has read it or wants to dive into it!
I won’t give many details about the plot (this is a book that you should read without knowing too much), but you need to know that this is a complex story that revolves about two women, a man, and a house. A very special one. One Folgate Street is a house like no other. You’re being constantly monitored and in order to live there, you’ll need to answer a long questionnaire, as well as follow certain rules. Who would want to live there? Well, the women in this book. But what if one of them died in mysterious circumstances?
I think that the two perspectives in The Girl Before worked flawlessly. You get to follow Emma (Then) and Jane (Now) as they both lead similar lives and make the same mistakes (in my opinion, of course) when they accept the house rules and meet Edward Monkford. I get that they wanted a fresh start… but seriously? I honestly didn’t like any character in this novel, as I couldn’t understand how Emma and Jane went along with all those weird rules. And Edward? What a creepy guy… No, thanks, Christian Grey.
Regardless of that, I always think that it’s a wonderful sign when you dislike the characters but you still want to know what’s going on and how the story will finish. The author writes in such a compelling way that you can’t stop reading, even though you sometimes want to knock some sense into the characters. And that is definitely something that I highly appreciate when reading certain stories.
Although the first part of The Girl Before had me completely gripped, things started to get a bit too “50 shades” for me and, for a few chapters, I felt like I wasn’t the right target for this book. I can’t stand reading about relationships where women say they want an “alpha male” and love being controlled. Fortunately for me, as the plot developed and focused on other -more interesting- events, I found myself engaged again. The book didn’t have a big twist, but instead provided some minor ones that worked really well and were surprising enough. By the end of the book, it seemed like you kept finding out secrets on every single page.