Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of J.P. Delaney’s fantastic psychological thriller, ‘The Girl Before’. I was absolutely hooked from the very first page, and I really enjoyed this book! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?
Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.
As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** This book contains repeated references to sexual assault, including a scene of rape and the investigation surrounding it. The theme of pregnancy issues and fertility problems is also explored in great detail. The novel also describes sexual relationships in great detail.
‘The Girl Before’ is J.P. Delaney’s debut novel, and was released in January 2018. Delaney’s second novel, ‘Believe Me’, is due to be released in January 2019. J.P. Delaney is the pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. A film version of ‘The Girl Before’ is being brought to the screen by Imagine Entertainment.
The novel has received positive reviews, from the likes of Sunday Times: “An outstanding debut that is more than a match for Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train“, Mail On Sunday: “Slick, sexy, suspenseful and smart” and Daily Express: “Deserves to be one of this year’s biggest successes”. Fellow authors also praised the novel, such as Lee Child: “A pitch-perfect psychological thriller” and Peter James: “A wonderful portrayal of psychological obsession at its creepy best”.
‘The Girl Before’ follows the lives of both Jane (present day – she has just moved into One Folgate Street) and Emma (then – the girl before who lived in One Folgate Street). Jane has suffered some personal hardships recently, and One Folgate Street seems like the perfect opportunity to start afresh. But she soon discovers that the girl before her met a mysterious death there, and starts to question everything…
There are two main narratives in this book: the past, first-person perspective of Emma, and the present, first-person perspective of Jane. Each chapter switches between narrator and time. The reader is given an in-depth, intrusive view into the characters’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The narrative is fairly simple and easy to follow, but still very effective.
My favourite character in the novel is Jane. She’s recently suffered a stillbirth, and jumps at the chance to live at One Folgate Street and start afresh. She’s stuck in a limbo state: she wants to move on and escape her past, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to forget about her child. She regularly experiences emotional pain for her loss and thinks of what could have been, which is really heartbreaking to read about. When she discovers Emma, the previous tenant, met a mysterious fate at the house, she takes on the role of a detective and does everything she can to investigate Emma. She soon realises that perhaps One Folgate Street is dangerous, and begins to fear for her own safety. Jane is a very realistic and vulnerable character, and I felt a great deal of sympathy towards her.
Emma is a very interesting, complex character. She too was in a vulnerable state when entering One Folgate Street, having been a victim of a terrible crime. She moves in with her boyfriend Simon, and is keen to escape and get away from her attacker. She largely suffers in silence, but when the truth is finally revealed, it soon becomes clear that perhaps Emma isn’t the girl we thought she was. She definitely has a dark side, and there’s so much more to her than first meets the eye. She does try to be a good person, but there’s something holding her back. Emma is a very complex, three-dimensional character.
Edward Monkford is the architect who designed One Folgate Street, and other unique properties like it. His wife and son met a mysterious death during the building of One Folgate Street, and now he lets out the property to tenants, who are required to go through a rigorous application process. Edward is the biggest perfectionist I’ve ever read about, and he’s also extremely obsessive. He’s a control freak, and likes things his way, and his way only. He enters relationships with some of the tenants, and things soon start to turn ugly. He’s an extremely interesting character, who is full of surprises.
Other characters in the novel include: Simon (Emma’s boyfriend), Carol (Emma’s therapist), Dr Gifford (Jane’s doctor), Mia (Jane’s friend), and various colleagues and other friends. There is a relatively small cast of characters in the novel, making them easier to follow.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (This section DOES contain spoilers – my apologies for this.) This novel explores the theme of sexual assault, including detailing a scene of rape and video footage obtained of the assault. The crime begins to be investigated and so repeated references are made to the crime. However, Delaney also explores the issue of lies in these cases, and the fact that the attacker has been wrongfully accused. This was a really unique spin to sexual assault cases, as I haven’t read a book before in which the issue of false accusations has arisen. The novel also explores pregnancy issues and fertility problems, namely exploring a stillbirth and all the after effects of this loss. Finally, the novel also describes sexual relationships and intimacy in great detail. If any of these issues may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the novel motors on, strange things are happening in One Folgate Street, in both the past and present narratives. The house starts behaving strangely, and the tenants begin to become scared and fearful for their safety. Edward Monkford becomes increasingly obsessive, and things are about to go drastically wrong. Will Jane be able to escape the same inevitable fate that Emma suffered?
So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s a dramatic end scene in which Delaney throws a real curveball into the mix, and the events of the novel take an entirely difference direction. I definitely didn’t see that coming! Jane must fight for her life, so she doesn’t end up in the same position as Emma. I really don’t want to say too much about the ending, so you’ll just have to read it to find out! I really enjoyed the ending, and was really glad with the conclusion that the novel comes to.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you’re looking for something different or unique – as I guarantee you’ve never read anything like this before! I loved this novel, mostly due to the fact that it was so different and fresh and exciting. The only criticism I have is that, at times, the description of sexual relationships was a bit too much detail and it made me feel uncomfortable! But that being said, I absolutely loved this novel and raced through to the end.
Happy reading 🙂