Thursday 13 April 2017

The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Published by HQ on April 6, 2017

The People at Number 9 is a book I really couldn’t wait to read and I was thrilled when my copy came in the post. I’d seen a lot of this book on Twitter and that cover had me so intrigued. There was something so teasing about the blurb which led me to believe this was going to be a tale of secrets and screwed up characters. I was expecting lots of twists and turns and drama too, and though I'm not sure how much the book met my expectations on that level, that really didn’t seem to matter because I was absolutely enamoured by this book anyway.

When a new couple moves into number nine, the house next door, Sara is absolutely compelled by what she sees. Gav and Lou are free, artistic characters who seem to breeze through their lives in a nonchalant manner, and they fascinate Sara. When she finally says hello to her new neighbours, it isn’t long before Sara and Lou are the best of friends. In fact Lou soon becomes Sara’s only friend as she quickly pushes her other friends aside so she can spend more time with Lou, Gav and their kids. But is Lou expecting too much of her new neighbours? I was waiting for it to all end in tears.

The cover and blurb to The People at Number 9 asks the reader whose side they are on. All the way through reading this book I just didn’t know! My allegiance kept switching sides and sometimes I found that I couldn’t really side with either couple. I found this character driven story really engaging though as both couples’ antics fascinated me. At times I found Lou harmless and at others I felt she was taking advantage of Sara's want for her friendship. Other times I found Sara really judgemental and the kind of friend I knew would be judging me and talking about me the moment I'd left her company. Gav and Neil are involved in this book too, they only play a slightly more minor role to Sara and Lou in the grand scheme of things and I found them both easier characters to read, though even with the men in this book I struggled to choose a side.

I loved this book’s representation of neighbours, sort of the twitchy curtain feeling you get thinking that your neighbours always know what you're up to, when you're leaving the house and what you do with your time. This book also represents the flip side of this. How you build up a picture of your neighbours in your mind only to discover they're not who you think they are. Sara in particular seemed absolutely obsessed with Gav and Lou and she could not stop talking about them or thinking about them. To me she came across as a quite lonely character who would do anything to keep hold of her new friends, people who inspired her and took her away from the dull, repetitiveness of her daily life.

Sara appeared quite a lot like that girl at school who was so desperate to hang out with the popular crowd that she'd ditch her less popular friends in a flash. This is what I pictured as I saw Sara move on from her friendship with Carol in a bid to befriend Lou. Sara was not the innocent party by any means but I did feel like Lou’s control over Sara, intentional or not, had a bit of a Mean Girls feel to it in a sort of ‘you can hang out with me as long as you don’t hang out with her’ kind of way. Poor Carol! In fact a lot of the friendship and the issues between Lou and Sara reminded me of some of the trivial stuff teenage girls have issues over, except that in The People at Number 9, their kids were involved too, often in an unsettling way.

I can’t quite understand just what it was about this book. Usually I love my books to be filled with drama, secrets, betrayals and the kind of book that you know with every chapter could come to a head. The People at Number 9 didn’t have anywhere near as much drama as I had expected. It wasn’t filled with twists and turns. In truth, not a lot happened in this book but it had a real hold on me straight away and I was never for one second bored. I was absolutely mesmerised by the characters and their day to day lives. By the time I’d reached the end of one chapter, I couldn’t resist reading the next, and I read almost two thirds of the book in one go. It all felt a bit sordid, like I was snooping on my own neighbours and just couldn't help myself. I found this book incredibly addictive and I couldn’t wait to read more, to learn more, to see what each new chapter would bring.

I was so fascinated by The People at Number 9. I’m really dying to talk more about it. I think book clubs could spend hours going over the events of this book and never come to a conclusion about whose side they are on and the rights and wrongs on either side. I love it when a book divides readers, when nothing is black and white. The People at Number 9 is an absorbing, dark novel which should appeal to all fellow people watchers and nosy neighbours alike.

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