The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

I review The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

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I am on the fence about this book. I enjoyed reading it – it was gripping and exhilarating, but it also got under my skin in quite a negative way. 1 Folgate Street is an ultra-modern, minimalist house, full of cutting edge technology. Those who want to rent the place must submit to intense questioning about their lives, and why they want to live there.

Controlling men. Why must we continue to suffer them? Edward Monkton’s display of toxic masculinity is right on point. It seems as if 50 Shades of Grey has normalised the controlling (read: abusive) relationship. [Spoiler alert] It transpires that Monkton had slept with both Emma and Jane (and probably others), embarking on casual relationships with them, before suddenly moving in, and slowly taking over their lives. The typical abuser, Monkton uses money and power to control these women.

Both Emma and Jane are troubled, having suffered from some kind of trauma. All is not as it seems, and I won’t delve too far into this side of The Girl Before, but it’s definitely intriguing, and the twist surprised me. I’m just a bit fed up with reading about men taking advantage of women, especially when it’s romanticised.

Also, a very good point has been made about books with the word “girl” in the title. The Girl On The Train, Gone Girl, Girls On Fire… while all of these are great works of fiction, the use of the word “girl” when really they mean “woman” (maybe not in the last one) is an example of the denigration of women. Reducing us to girls strips us of our adulthood.

I gave The Girl Before 3 stars, because I really can’t make my mind up whether I loved it or not. The story was thrilling, but aspects were really disappointing, and, at time, infuriating. Read it and make up your own mind, if you can.

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