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The Girl Before Bets On...

The Girl Before

February 2017

As soon as you read the title, THE GIRL BEFORE, you know that something happened “before.” Then you open the first page and read, “1. Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.” From there, JP Delaney had drawn me into the story, both to see why this question mattered and to learn what happened then, as well as now. It was a brisk read that flips back and forth between “Then: Emma” and “Now: Jane,” with me turning pages rapidly to follow their stories.

Another “character” in the story is the house where Jane and Emma live/lived, which is austere and peaceful, One Folgate Street. To live there, one must apply, answering a rental questionnaire that is very exacting as the opportunity to live there is highly selective. The house, built by architect Edward Monkford, is stark in design, and the rule is that if you live there, you cannot personalize it. The house thus becomes a character in the story. Every detail is computer-driven --- from room and shower water temperature to, well, just about every household function being micromanaged by a personal online assistant named Housekeeper, who manages the house as well as one’s access to the outside world until one closes the door. Sounds lovely, until you realize how restricting it is.

While not for everyone, the home is affordable for both Emma and now Jane, and they are both into the challenge that living there will provide. Or so they think. Each is running from something. Emma’s breakup with her boyfriend, Simon, has her ready to hide out. Jane sadly lost a child and wants a place to rebuild her life. Both women end up involved with Monkford. What’s happened to Emma is an obsession of Jane’s, and as the story unfolds, she sees just what kind of jeopardy her life is in and the control this house has on her.

Something in the ending is unexpected and holds special meaning for the author, which you can read more about in my interview with him here. And do not read the end first lest you see one last surprise.

Oh, and about that rental questionnaire. You can have a go at it here. But before you leap at the chance to sign on, remember, the house does not allow personal items, like books on the shelves. So alas, it’s not the house for me!

The Girl Before
by JP Delaney