The Girl Before is written by JP Delaney and narrated by Emilia Fox, Finty Williams (my favourite narrator and daughter of Judy Dench) and Lise Aagaard Knudsen. It centres around two female characters, one in the past and one in the present.
The storylines are simultaneously read from each characters perspective as the story unfolds for each of them, which can be a little confusing when listening as you need to pay attention to how each character sounds. The chapter starts with either “Now, Jane” or “Then, Emma” so it does explain but if you lapse in concentration and don’t hear it, it won’t really take long to realise who is speaking.
Emma lived at 1 Folgate Street in London, a very unusual house with a lot of rules set by the architect, Edward Monkford. Jane starts renting the property about a year or two later and again is subjected to the rules and everything else that 1 Folgate Street imposes.
The book opens with the phrase “please make a list of everything you deem absolutely necessary to your life” and it seems intriguing. The chapters are interspersed with other questions from the application form, which gives some insight into it, but never fully develops it.
The house, 1 Folgate Street is an experiment whereby it hopes to transform the residents into more focussed and minimalistic individuals, but it also controls them to a degree and sets in motion the same events and obsessions that happened before.
If I am honest, the story wasn’t a thrilling as I’d have hoped and the writing is quite poor. The girls both meet the same people and experience similar things while living at the house, but it seems disjointed and rushed. JP Delaney seems to have a lack of synonyms for the word “says” or “said” and he uses the words “go”, “goes” and “went” instead; he goes instead of he says. Something my own parents drilled out of me at a very young age. I found it frustrating to listen to and probably would have found it frustrating to read too.
The overall story was good, there was a certain amount of medical knowledge, which was impressive and I did listen to the end so I did feel gripped by it. I would recommend, but it’s the writing that let it down so be warned!
Overall, I would rate this book as 3 out of 5.