The Family Next Door…
About the Book:
Do you ever really know your neighbours?
The safest suburbs often hold the deepest secrets. Such is the case for Essie, a mother of two. In a moment of maternal despair she once made a terrible mistake, one she will always regret. Essie has since recovered, but she fears what may still lurk inside her.
Her neighbours in Pleasant Court have their own issues. Driven and organised, Ange appears to have everything under control, except perhaps her husband. Practical, intellectual Fran can’t stop running. For exercise, or something else?
One day in February, during an unprecedented Melbourne heatwave, someone new arrives. Isabelle is single and childless, when everyone else is married with kids. She is renting, when everyone else owns. Her job is mysteriously vague. Strangest of all, Isabelle is very curious about her neighbours. Too curious, some might say.
It soon becomes clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighbourhood was no accident. And her presence might bring even more secrets to light…
The Family Next Door is my first Sally Hepworth novel and I’m pleased to say that I now know why she’s one of Australia’s most popular authors. On the domestic drama front, Sally is in a class of her own. This novel clips along at a rapid pace, intriguing enough to suck you in but not too mysterious that you tire of the inferences. The delivery was punchy, the chapters hooking you in to ‘just read one more’, and the characters as authentic as, well, as your own neighbours.
There are some heavy themes presented in The Family Next Door offering much food for thought on postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, two conditions that are still evolving in terms of public discussion and impressions. In addition to this, family structures are examined and marriage is put under the microscope. All in all, it makes for an insightful read and I was utterly engrossed in The Family Next Door from start to finish.
I had a lot of sympathy for all of the characters, with the exception of Lucas, who really was a tosser in my opinion. I did favour Ange, perhaps because I felt some affinity to her and her plight, but more so because I loved her realism and her bravery. I have a lot of respect for women who protect their self-worth, even when it means taking the harder road. As to Barbara, her story was truly heartbreaking and weighed on me greatly.
In terms of setting, Sally did very well at re-creating suburbia. There’s an interesting dynamic that exists between neighbours. You’re a step above acquaintances but not exactly friends. I loved how Sally tapped into this as it offered a more realistic slant than if the characters had all been the very best of friends just because they lived on the same street as each other. Granted, the relationships between the women strengthened as time progressed, but essentially, that neighbourhood dynamic was retained throughout.
This novel threw me a couple of good surprises and impressed me with the depth of the storyline. It’s a novel that will resonate with many mothers. I’m always so pleased to read a novel that sympathetically examines motherhood. It doesn’t come naturally to all of us and isn’t an instant bed of roses, and sometimes, no matter how much we love our children, they drive us crazy and we yearn for a little bit of shush. There’s nothing wrong with this and I love that Sally wove these notions into her narrative so tightly. There’s a lot of information out there telling mothers how they should feel, what they should be doing or not doing with their children and so on. It’s so refreshing to read a novel that celebrates the notion of mothers as individuals with individual children parenting with individual strategies. Intelligent writing always entices me and I look forward to reading Sally’s backlist and enjoying her new novels far into the future.
Thanks is extended to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of The Family Next Door for review.
About the Author:
Sally Hepworth has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the UK and Canada, where she worked in event management and human resources. She is the author of Love Like the French, The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep and The Mother’s Promise.
Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and children.