The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

This one fell rather flat for me. Having just read Sally Hepworth’s other book The Mother-in-Law and absolutely devouring it in days and truly loved it, The Family Next Door was rather dry.

This story revolves around a neighbourhood called “Pleasant Court” in Australia filled with predominantly married couple with children. Ange and Lucas, Essie and Ben, and then Fran and Nigel — they each have two children of their own. Barbara is a single grandmother who lives next door to Essie, her daughter. The only single woman to be found in this neighbourhood is newcomer Isabelle. She also lives next door to Essie. But there’s something more than meets the eye with her.

While from the outside, anyone would think this is a normal, safe neighbourhood where very little happens except for a scrape here or there when a child falls from their bike. But “Pleasant Court” is filled with secrets and lies that slowly unravel throughout the novel. From infidelity, loss of children, and even kidnapping — this picture perfect neighbourhood gradually unravels some very dark secrets from their not so normal neighbours.

This was another quick read. I listened to it while I was getting ready for work, and even in the gym, desperately trying to figure out when that massive plot twist was going to happen, but it really didn’t. I mean, there is obviously something that Hepworth is leading us to, and we eventually find it, but it is nothing like the previous plot twist I got from her other book. It made me feel rather dumbfounded when it was revealed. I actually said, “Is that it?” I guess I wanted more, something dark and unnerving like her other book.

I also found it difficult to keep up with all the characters. There were so many narrators and their husband’s, children, mothers. It became too much to remember. I had to keep going back or looking up all the characters to keep track of which person was with which family. And don’t even get me started on how far fetched some of the secretive behaviours were. I mean, we’ve all seen Sex and the City, so we know how woman are, but some of these lies and secrets are extremely unbelievable.

That all being said, Hepworth certainly had me wrapped around her finger when it came to her writing, dialogue and even the setting. Her books really make me want to move to Australia. She has a way of keeping you entertained by the writing and characters where you want to know what they’re hiding. But when it is revealed, it’s too far-fetched or not dark enough for me. I’m not as in love with this one as I was with her other book.

If you’ve ever been curious about what goes on in your neighbour’s home, what dark secrets they’re hiding or even the shadows you see from their window at night — this book certainly sheds enough light on those secrets — maybe too unbelievable and not dark enough, but interesting all the least. The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth is a fast-paced mystery that leaves you wondering what’s going on next door with your neighbours. Even if it’s not murder, kinky sex or contraband — you honestly never know people are capable of behind closed doors!

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