Have you met them yet, the new couple?
When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.
When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.
And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…
I think we’ve probably all met people like Gav and Lou in our lives, even if they aren’t our neighbours, couples who just put us and our relationship to shame because of their vibrancy. I know I have, being caught in their glow for a while and felt wonderful and worthless at the same time. Or at least, I did in my younger days. Haven’t been burnt before I am more wary of the perfect now but still, you never know if it could happen again.
Which makes me very sympathetic to Sara at the beginning of this and not surprised she falls into Lou’s orbit and into Lou’s world without giving it much thought. Lou is attractive and flaky, passed off as creative, as is her husband Gav, an artist who lives in his own world a lot of the time. For them, housework is the last thing on the list of life to dos, as is childcare – which Sara starts to pick up so they can be free to create.
If it sounds like a one-sided relationship, it is, right from the start. You as a reader can see it – and possibly her husband Neil too – but Sara can’t. All she sees are her own imperfections, which she wants to fix, and the boring-ness of her own life, which she tries to fix too. Along the way, she sheds her clothes for newer, free-er, ones, her friends for newer, hipper, ones and seems on the way to shedding her husband too before it all starts crashing down on her.
To see the crash is painful because you know it’s coming but there is also a frustration here for me, something which started about halfway through the book and didn’t quite leave me. The first is why does it take her so long to realise that Lou and Gav aren’t perfect; the second is why on earth doesn’t her husband tell her before it’s all too late and lives are about to be destroyed? I really did just want to give Neil a good shake.
For me, and when I started reading the book, I think I thought he would be more of a catalyst – the rub that created the tension – but he wasn’t. He went along, almost blindly it seemed. As you only hear Sara’s voice, it’s hard to know his thoughts, but this is how she describes him. Which brings me to the final frustration. This was all in Sara’s voice, which became bit repetitive for me and meant I had one view point of everyone’s behaviours.
She painted a picture of Gav and Lou that was great, good, then pretty awful but what was true? Were they really taking the mick or were they simply oblivious? I couldn’t decide how much they were manipulating Sara and how much she was just unhappy and needing a change. Her level of self-awareness wasn’t great and so, as a result, neither was mine.
Frustrations aside, there are pluses to this book. The writing is good, building the tension in the first half (though this does fall off), as is the idea. There were twists and turns that kept me reading and I can picture the suburban scene and the life people are living there and have no wonder they may want a change. I do wish it had been better executed, that that tension had stayed with me and the characters better developed. All in all, though, it didn’t wow me. I liked it but didn’t love it. Sorry!