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I loved Elizabeth Noble's last book, 'Things I Want My Daughters To Know' (even though it made me cry), so when I saw her latest release 'The Girl Next Door' on sale at Heathrow, I decided I just had to buy it for my holiday reading. Even though I don't tend to buy large-format paperbacks these days as I'm trying to spend less money, I thought I could treat myself just this once.... Actually I ended up buying two books, but that's a whole other story!
'The Girl Next Door' is set in a New York apartment building and follows the intertwining lives of its residents during a period of about a year. The story begins with an English couple, Eve and Ed Gallagher, moving to New York because Ed has been transferred there through work. At first, it seems like an exciting opportunity, but Eve feels lost and alone in New York, as Ed works increasingly long hours and she struggles to come to terms with being away from home and missing her family. As a way of meeting new people, she becomes involved with the 'Building Beautifying Committee' where the residents come together to create a roof-top garden. Through this committee, she meets an elderly English neighbour called Violet and a real friendship develops.
As the story progresses, Eve and Ed's story continues but we are also introduced in greater depth to the other residents of the building. There are two families living there, the Kramers and the Schulmans, both of whom are having differing marital issues. There are also a number of young, single characters in the building - Jackson is a young man from a wealthy family living off a trust fund with no real idea about what he wants to do with his life. Emily is the daughter of Polish immigrants who works in television and does triathlons. Charlotte is a shy, romance addict who works in the library and lacks self-confidence. Madison is a high-maintenance society girl who is desperate to land a rich man to keep her in the style to which she wants to become accustomed. All of their lives intertwine in various ways throughout the novel.
For a book with so many major characters, the story flows easily and I found it simple to follow. In the early stages, I did find myself referring back to the list of characters which is helpfully included at the start of the book, just to make sure I knew who the story was focusing on at that particular point, but I soon got the hang of it all. By the end, I was finding it all very addictive - it was a bit like watching a soap opera with all the dramatic events unfolding in so many people's lives and I loved that element of the book. I did find myself relating more to some characters than others - for example the friendship between Eve and Violet is a lovely storyline and something that you can really imagine happening. As Eve found out more about Violet's past life, I really felt that I was discovering it with her. I also found both Emily and Charlotte very realistic characters who I felt I could relate to in different ways, and I found the storylines revolving around the Kramer and Schulman families very involving as well.
The other thing that I really loved about this book was that it was set in New York. I think I'm a bit obsessed with New York to be honest. I've only been once but it was a fabulous experience and I am desperate to go back one day. I absolutely loved all the descriptions of the city, as they brought back so many happy memories for me, and the book being set somewhere that I feel like I 'know' made it easier for me to visualise the locations and further immerse myself in the story.
Overall, I really loved this book. It made me laugh, it definitely made me cry and drew my into the lives of its characters to the extent that I really didn't want it to end. I wouldn't say this book was purely chick-lit, it's definitely a woman's book but it's really well written and covers issues that would interest women of all ages. It's not a fluffy novel - it has a lot of depth, thought-provoking storylines and great character development and I would recommend it even to people who say they don't like 'chick-lit'. Basically, I couldn't put this book down and I can't wait for Elizabeth Noble's next book.
For me, there is nothing better than sitting down in the peace and quiet and reading a really good book. I've always loved reading, and I do moreso now than I ever have done. There are so many good books on the market that it's sometimes hard to choose what one to read next. There are some new authors that really please with me with their books, and Elizabeth Noble is one such author. Although she has been writing since 2003, I've only just got into her books and after loving her 2008 release, I was desperate to read her new book 'The Girl Next Door'. As usual, I got a copy from the library and sat down eagerly to devour it.
Eve and Ed Gallagher have just moved to their new apartment in New York City after his job transferred him. He's eager, but Eve is feeling really lonely and a bit adrift. But when she meets her elderley English neighbour Violet, a whole new friendship blossoms, and the Gallaghers begin to understand the other residents of their building and their lives too. Kim and Jason are struggling with their marriage and boisterous child Avery, Rachael and David seem to have the perfect family with their 3 kids; Emily is a single sportswoman but fellow resident Jackson is determined to crack her tough exterior. Charlotte is a hopeless romantic and forever seeing the positive, and finally Todd and Greg are the apartment's gay couple and probably the happiest of the lot. "The Girl Next Door" delves deep into relationships, new and old, to weave a wonderfully engaging story.
After the emotional but brilliant "Things I Want My Daughters to Know" (see review), I was hoping that Noble would be able to get into the minds of her characters once more and give us a story that would stay with her readers long after we turn the final page. Rather than concentrating on a family dynamic as she did in her previous book, Noble chooses to broaden the scope of her story this time around by focussing on the tenants in one apartment block in New York City, and the relationships going on behind closed doors and how perceptions of people can be extremely different to their reality. Although this sounded like an interesting way of writing, I was concerned at the amount of characters but surprisingly I didn't struggle at all. Noble has included a "List of Characters" at the beginning, and this was a great reference point to flick for the first few chapters while you get to know the characters.
The main characters we see the most of are the English couple Ed and Eve who move over to NYC. One of the most enjoyable things for me was the way Noble writes the story of these two. The author herself is English, yet she writes New York with a real understanding of the city, but from a really English perspective. You can almost feel how Eve is feeling when she's stuck in a strange country all alone, and trying to adjust to the customs of a new place. Eve is very likeable, and a great leading lady, and when it comes to the very emotional story towards the latter half of the book, the reader is completely sympathetic to her and in fact, it struck a chord with me and was quite hard to read. The relationship between the pair is well explored too, and I came away feeling like I would miss reading about Ed and Eve.
Of course, there are plenty of other characters in the book too, but to write a bit about each would make this review far too long! Instead, I'll just mention some that stood out for me, and they were the complex family of Kim, Jason and their daughter Avery. It didn't seem like a happy story but Noble manages to put their emotions into words so well you can totally empathise with them and their current situation. I also liked Charlotte and Emily, the single girls of the apartment. Their stories also had me intrigued and drew me right into the book, and the underlying plots of the pair were very to read. Finally, I loved Violet and her wonderful stories. Noble has clearly researched the war years from both an American and English perception well, because Violet's war stories were amazing to read and added a whole new dimension the book.
I don't think that there are many authors out there who can write a faultless book, but Elizabeth Noble is one of those such authors for me. This book was such a delight to read for me, I just couldn't put it down at night as I was desperate to find out what was going to happen next. The book is what I call a "proper story", written in the 3rd person, and with so many characters, this was definitely the best way to go. Noble writes fantastically, and has a real talent for descriptive writing. Having been to NYC twice, her writing really brought back memories of what it was like to be there, and even for people that haven't been, they'll be able to picture New York from Eve's perspective easily.
For me, this is story-telling at its best. If you want a well written, enjoyable yet emotional novel, then I can't recommend "The Girl Next Door" highly enough. People would probably think that this is "chick-lit" but while I would agree its target audience is women, it's very deep and quite hard to read in parts, particularly the ending of the book (beware, there is a review on Amazon.co.uk which spoils the major storyline at the end of the book so steer clear of this terrible travesty). Noble has again delved deep into the complexity of relationships and come out on top once more. This book is a complete delight from the first page to the last, and you'll really feel like you've been on a rollercoaster with these characters. I was sad to turn the last page, and I know it'll be one I'll be buying when its out in paperback. Highly recommended!
ISBN: 978-0718152338. Published in February 2009 by Michael Joseph. Hardback edition contains 352 pages. The paperback is due for release in September 2009.
Note: This book was published in the USA under the title of "Love Storeys".
Thank you for reading!