9 May 2009

Book Review: The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble

Eve and Ed Gallagher have just moved to their new apartment in New York City after his job transferred him. He's eager, but Eve is feeling really lonely and a bit adrift.

But when she meets her elderley English neighbour Violet, a whole new friendship blossoms, and the Gallaghers begin to understand the other residents of their building and their lives too. Kim and Jason are struggling with their marriage and boisterous child Avery, Rachael and David seem to have the perfect family with their 3 kids; Emily is a single sportswoman but fellow resident Jackson is determined to crack her tough exterior.

Charlotte is a hopeless romantic and forever seeing the positive, and finally Todd and Greg are the apartment's gay couple and probably the happiest of the lot. "The Girl Next Door" delves deep into relationships, new and old, to weave a wonderfully engaging story.

Rating: 5/5

After the emotional but brilliant "Things I Want My Daughters to Know" , I was hoping that Noble would be able to get into the minds of her characters once more and give us a story that would stay with her readers long after we turn the final page. Rather than concentrating on a family dynamic as she did in her previous book, Noble chooses to broaden the scope of her story this time around by focussing on the tenants in one apartment block in New York City, and the relationships going on behind closed doors and how perceptions of people can be extremely different to their reality. Although this sounded like an interesting way of writing, I was concerned at the amount of characters but surprisingly I didn't struggle at all. Noble has included a "List of Characters" at the beginning, and this was a great reference point to flick for the first few chapters while you get to know the characters.

The main characters we see the most of are the English couple Ed and Eve who move over to NYC. One of the most enjoyable things for me was the way Noble writes the story of these two. The author herself is English, yet she writes New York with a real understanding of the city, but from a really English perspective. You can almost feel how Eve is feeling when she's stuck in a strange country all alone, and trying to adjust to the customs of a new place. Eve is very likeable, and a great leading lady, and when it comes to the very emotional story towards the latter half of the book, the reader is completely sympathetic to her and in fact, it struck a chord with me and was quite hard to read. The relationship between the pair is well explored too, and I came away feeling like I would miss reading about Ed and Eve.

Of course, there are plenty of other characters in the book too, but to write a bit about each would make this review far too long! Instead, I'll just mention some that stood out for me, and they were the complex family of Kim, Jason and their daughter Avery. It didn't seem like a happy story but Noble manages to put their emotions into words so well you can totally empathise with them and their current situation. I also liked Charlotte and Emily, the single girls of the apartment. Their stories also had me intrigued and drew me right into the book, and the underlying plots of the pair were very to read. Finally, I loved Violet and her wonderful stories. Noble has clearly researched the war years from both an American and English perception well, because Violet's war stories were amazing to read and added a whole new dimension the book.

I don't think that there are many authors out there who can write a faultless book, but Elizabeth Noble is one of those such authors for me. This book was such a delight to read for me, I just couldn't put it down at night as I was desperate to find out what was going to happen next. The book is what I call a "proper story", written in the 3rd person, and with so many characters, this was definitely the best way to go. Noble writes fantastically, and has a real talent for descriptive writing. Having been to NYC twice, her writing really brought back memories of what it was like to be there, and even for people that haven't been, they'll be able to picture New York from Eve's perspective easily.

For me, this is story-telling at its best. If you want a well written, enjoyable yet emotional novel, then I can't recommend "The Girl Next Door" highly enough. People would probably think that this is "chick-lit" but while I would agree its target audience is women, it's very deep and quite hard to read in parts, particularly the ending of the book (beware, there is a review on Amazon.co.uk which spoils the major storyline at the end of the book so steer clear of this terrible travesty). Noble has again delved deep into the complexity of relationships and come out on top once more. This book is a complete delight from the first page to the last, and you'll really feel like you've been on a rollercoaster with these characters. I was sad to turn the last page, and I know it'll be one I'll be buying when its out in paperback. Highly recommended!

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