I absolutely loved Lisa Jewell’s recent psychological thrillers (Watching You, I Found You and Then She Was Gone), so when I saw her latest novel – The Family Upstairs – in Sainsbury’s (my top tip for buying books cheaply), I was very excited. I didn’t even bother to read the blurb to find out what it was about, because I knew I would love it.
And I wasn’t wrong. This book is an absolute triumph. I loved it even more than her previous novels. I loved it so much that I started it on a Wednesday afternoon and finished it less than 48 hours later (it usually takes me about 10 days to read a book).
I actually didn’t read the blurb at all until I sat down to read the book. And what a chilling blurb it is! It describes a happy well-fed baby in her cot, with three decomposing bodies nearby. Who has been looking after the baby and where did they go?
The intro is just as chilling: I was nearly eleven when they came, and my sister was nine. They lived with us for more than five years and they turned everything very, very dark. My sister and I had to learn how to survive. And when I was sixteen, and my sister was fourteen, the baby came.
There are three strands to The Family Upstairs. There is the story of Libby in 2018, a young woman who gets a mysterious letter from a solicitor. Then there is Lucy, also in 2018, a single mum of two, homeless and living hand to mouth in Nice with her two small children. And finally there is Henry, who dictates the story of the house and its occupants from the late 1980s onwards.
It takes a while to work out who all of these characters are and how they fit together, but I did manage to work it out just before it was revealed. All of their stories are indeed very dark, but brilliant. This is a real page turner of a book with likeable, flawed and believable characters.
(My one very small complaint is that both of the lead female characters have names beginning with L, which I find confusing.)
I can’t recommend The Family Upstairs highly enough. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, you will devour it. And even if you’re not, you will probably really enjoy it!