The Girl Before is another mystery/thriller novel in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Hey, as a matter of fact, it even has the word “girl” right there in the title. While it’s true that as the events unfold, the unreliable narrator, dual storytelling points of view, and red herrings are very similar to the other books I’ve mentioned, the plot of The Girl Before enthralled me right from the start and never let go.
The book begins with two women who have suffered a traumatic event moving into a famous, yet foreboding house: Jane, who lives in the house in present day, and Emma, who was the girl that lived in the house before her. The home was designed by enigmatic and obsessive architect Edward Monkford. A person must through through extensive background and personality tests just to get the chance to live in Edward’s masterpiece, and there are hundreds of rules surrounding what you can and cannot do while living there. Because of this, the house basically becomes a character of its’ own.
As each girl begins a romance with Edward, creepy similarities pop up, and Jane begins to get warnings from more than one place about what happened to Emma. She resigns herself not to suffer the same fate, but there’s just something about Edward and his house…
I don’t mind a dual narrator in a novel; as a matter of fact I appreciate it because it allows you to notice things you may not necessarily have if only one character or the other were telling the story. At some points though, I couldn’t tell the difference between the voices of the two characters. It took up until the halfway point for me to truly be sure of whose point of view I was reading without having to check the chapter heading.
Throughout the whole book, the author succeeded in giving me the serious creeps about Edward Monkford. He’s obsessive compulsive, narcissistic, has anger issues and a whole host of other psychological problems that neither girl seems to notice at first. His attempts to control them made my skin crawl.
There is more than one twist in the novel that I can honestly say I did not suspect. Personalities seem to change in an instant, and although to some the twists and the ending might seem to come out of left field, I really liked them. I did feel the ending moved a bit quickly though.
In the end, I’m not sure I can say I truly liked any of the characters as people. Jane was the only one who seemed to have one or two redeemable qualities, but then in the end I learned she had ulterior motives as well. No one in this book was who they proclaimed themselves to be.
If you liked the books that The Girl Before has been compared to, go ahead and give this one a read as well. There are some similar themes, but others that will shake you to your core.
Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.