The good: Never a dull moment!
The not-so-good: Why do great books and busy schedules always collide?
Why I chose it: Love Sally Hepworth’s books. Thanks Pan Macmillan for the copy for The Family Next Door blog tour.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Setting: Melbourne, Australia
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Sally Hepworth never fails to surprise me as an author. Each of her books is unique and brings completely different topics to the fore. I think that The Family Next Door may just be her best novel to date, and I’m not saying that just because it’s set in Australia! It combines the frustration of a summer heatwave with secrets and relationship issues packaged up in a format that you simply can’t put down. It’s domestic drama at its finest.
Melbourne is stuck firmly in a heatwave and the residents of Pleasant Court are sweltering beyond the façade of their gorgeous houses in a quiet suburbs. But simmering behind each of the front doors are secrets, tension and an uneasy sense of foreboding. Essie did something bad once after her oldest daughter was born. Will it happen again with Polly? Mum Barbara and husband Ben are there to support her, but it’s new neighbour Isabelle who Essie is desperate to be friends with. Isabelle is somewhat of an anomaly in Pleasant Court – single, no children and very interested in everyone else but not herself. Even neighbour and real estate agent Ange can’t find out the simplest of details about Isabelle. But then Ange has to stay perfect in every way to stop her husband looking elsewhere (plus figure out the best Instagram hashtags). Fran fits into the mould of Pleasant Court perfectly – married with a new baby. Yet she’s always out running. What is she running from and will she ever forgive herself?
Both Isabelle and the heat are the catalyst to expose the secrets that reside in Pleasant Court. While Fran and Ange have more domestic type dramas, it’s Essie’s secret that she didn’t even know she had that will change a number of relationships forever. It’s certainly one that I thought I had figured out thanks to some mystery first person chapters…but I was completely and utterly wrong. The truth was even more shocking and I learnt quite a few things as the events unravelled. I’m not going to spoil the secret here, except to say that it’s really, really unlikely that you will work it out! Sally Hepworth adds in some great red herrings too that end up making quite a bit of sense in the end. I really enjoyed how the story was part domestic drama, part almost-thriller. The secrets of the women on the street combined really well. Looking back, I would have thought that I wouldn’t have been interested in Fran and Ange’s troubles. However, I was always happy to read about them. All the female characters in The Family Next Door are both strong and unique. The pacing is even and Sally knows just when to switch a character’s point of view. I never flicked forward to read more about a particular character (something I am prone to doing), which is the highest praise from me!
The Family Next Door just goes to show that you don’t need glamourous settings, high octane drama or action to make a fantastic read. The best stories can be told from a suburban location because who knows what your neighbours are hiding from the world…?