The Girl Below: A Novel
by Bianca Zander
William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .
After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .
A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander’s The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the author has a way with words that kept me entranced until the end. However, on the other hand, the book left me wanting. There were things that were never fully resolved and ultimately, I think I am one of the readers who just did not “get” this book.
Suki Piper is 28 years old, but she is very immature for her age. I often felt sorry for her as she never seemed to really grow up. She suffered through her parents divorce at a young age and then the death of her mother as a young adult. She never really recovered. Compounding all of these things are the mysterious occurrences that Suki reflects on from her childhood; specifically, the incident in the air raid shelter, the “hand” in the cabinet, and the issue with the statue called Madeline. As a reader, I kept looking through these supernatural-type experiences to find the real truth hidden in the author’s words. However, upon finishing the book, I never found a real conclusion to any of the events that Suki experienced, which is unfortunate. I drummed up many theories as I was reading the book, but there was no answer that left me wholly satisfied. Perhaps that was the point, but I am a reader who likes to have a definitive answer to the questions and oddities that are raised in the course of the story. I do not like to wonder at the outcome – I want to know the outcome.
The relationships Suki had with those around her were strange at best. She was a caretaker for Peggy, her old neighbor, and became reacquainted with Pippa, who is Peggy’s daughter and Suki’s old babysitter. Pippa’s 15-year-old son, Caleb, is a bit of a delinquent and Pippa thinks that Suki could have a positive influence on him given her life experiences. So, Caleb and Suki begin spending time together, but their relationship is just plain weird, awkward, and uncomfortable. I was left shaking my head on several occasions.
Overall, the author has excellent writing ability and the story kept me intrigued til the end. However, when none of my lingering questions were answered at the end of the book, I was left feeling disappointed and a bit puzzled that I completely missed something. Other readers should note that I do not typically read stories with strong supernatural elements, so this could be part of the reason that this book did not resonate with me. I was very intrigued by the synopsis, which is why I wanted to review the book. Unfortunately, this is one that just did not quite meet my expectations, which does not mean it will not meet yours!
Thanks to the publisher, I have 3 copies of THE GIRL BELOW to give away to THREE readers in the USA!
1. Enter your name and e-mail address in the ContestMachine widget below.
2. Open to residents of the USA only.
3. Contest will close on June 27 at 11:59pm EST.
4. 3 winners will be selected and contacted upon contest closure. Winners will have 48 hours to respond to notification email or another winner will be selected.
5. Winners must provide their full name and mailing address which I will send to the publisher for fulfillment of the prize.
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