Friday, January 15, 2010

Review: The Girl Next Door

Summary: What makes a house a home?

For Eve Gallagher, home is miles away in England since she and her husband relocated to an apartment building on New York's Upper East Side. And life isn't coming up roses.

What makes a neighbor a friend?

Violet has lived in the building for decades, but she's always kept herself apart, until Eve's loneliness touches her heart.

What makes a wife a lover?

Jason Kramer in apartment 6A is no longer sure he loves his wife, but he's head over heels for Rachel Schulman in 6B.

What makes the girl next door the woman of your dreams?

Meeting Emily Mikanowski from 3A turns Trip Grayling's world upside down. It's love at first sight, but he needs help from Charlotte, the shy romance novel addict in 2A, if he's going to get his girl.

What they all have in common is an address, but it is also a home where their lives and secrets intertwine. Come in and enjoy this bittersweet story of friendship and love. -- Touchstone Fireside

When I was at BEA last May, one of the authors that I was fortunate enough to meet was Elizabeth Noble. I also happened to receive an autographed ARC of her new book THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. It wasn't until I realized that the book was released last month that I remembered that it was still sitting (unread) on my book shelf. Since I consider myself a pretty big fan of Elizabeth Noble's books, I decided now was the perfect time to read THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

In many ways, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was similar to some of Ms. Noble's other books because it told the stories of people who somehow come into contact with each other -- in this case, it was a group of people who lived in an apartment building in New York City. There was without a doubt an interesting cast of characters including the young British couple who recently moved to New York, an older woman who had lived in the building for years, a family whose life seemed perfect to everyone, and even a couple whose marriage was in trouble. The story was told in alternating chapters about each of the characters.

I enjoyed THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, but I'm not sure it was my absolute favorite one of Ms. Noble's books. I read through the book quickly and the story didn't drag for me at all, but something about the book didn't quite live up to my expectations. The more I thought about it, the more I've come to realize that I had a hard time "bonding" with many of the characters. Frankly, I just didn't care about quite a few of the characters; and their personalities didn't appeal to me. That's not to say that I didn't like reading about them at all -- because I did. I just didn't "feel" as much towards the characters as I would have hoped in a novel like this. (Does that make any sense at all?)

Despite my issues with some of the characters, I did find two of the characters very interesting. Eve, a young British woman who moves to New York for her husband's job and Violet, an older British woman who had lived in the apartment for years yet never really got to know any of the other tenants. Throughout the course of the book, these two lonely women developed a wonderful relationship that really symbolized how special female friendships can be. I found myself caring deeply about Eve and Violet, and I really felt as if the author did a wonderful job of developing these two characters and their interactions.

One thing I can definitely say about THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is that is a book that is ripe for a book club discussion! There is a wonderful reading guide that is full of some thought-provoking questions; however, I had no problem coming up with things I wanted to talk about while reading this book. Some of the possible topics for conversation include friendships, marriage, marriage problems, adultery, motherhood, infertility, loss of a child, and forgiveness to name just a few! As you can see, there are just so many things to discuss about the characters in this novel.

After I finished this book, I wondered if Ms. Noble intends to write more about the residents of this Upper East Side coop! I felt as if the ending left open the possibility of more stories about some of the characters. In addition, I feel as if I didn't get to really know some of the secondary characters; and I'd actually like to delve a little deeper into some of their lives. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I'm hoping for a sequel!

I received an ARC of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR at BEA.


bermudaonion said...

I haven't read any of Elizabeth Noble's books, but this doesn't sound like the one to start with. I will have to say when she describes it with her British accent, it sounds wonderful!

thekoolaidmom said...

It looks like there's a lot going on in this book. It seems to be a bit of a soap opera. It's fun that you met the author at BEA, and I'm still... and maybe forever... jealous of everyone's BEA trips :-)

Beth Kephart said...

Great post, as always, Julie. (Now I imagine you reading and writing in your smart new glasses).

Debbie Rodgers said...

I haven't read any Elizabeth Noble either, but I might start with this one anyway. I love these "separate threads coming together" stories.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Great review post. I am planning to go to BEA this year and am excited to have moments like you described right there!

Amused said...

I really like some of Ms. Noble's books and other's are just ok. I want to read this one though just to see. I'm so jealous that you got to meet her!

Beth F said...

I haven't read any of her books, but the idea of this one is intriguing. I'll start with a different novel.