Book Review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Family 1

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 3 Stars

Publish Date: March 6, 2018

“Good neighbors always spy on you to make sure that you are doing well.” – Pietro Aretino

I received an advance copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

Family 2

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors, and children play in the street.

Isabelle is the new neighbor that just moved in. She doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. She doesn’t have kids or a husband; what is is doing in this neighborhood?

Isabelle soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers- Ange, Fran and Essie – who have their own secrets to hide. Ange is a control freak, Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near their new baby, and, three years ago, Essie struggled with a really bad bout of postpartum depression and left her baby in a park.

As their obsession with their new neighbor grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

Family 3

Neighbors, Secrets, and Scandals – one of my favorite genres!

This novel explores the themes of marriage, family, parenting, postpartum depression, friendship, and infidelity. It reminds us that each person is dealing with something beneath a cool, calm, and collected surface.

Essie, Ange, and Fran are cordial neighbors and mothers. They are all struggling to deal with their flaws, their marriage, and child-rearing, and each one is acutely aware of their shortcomings. Each woman perceives the others as “having it all together” with “the perfect family”. They view the new neighbor Isabelle as mysterious because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of having a spouse and 2.5 kids.

Fake It Till You Make It is a common mantra for Essie, Ange, Fran, Isabelle, and even their spouses and family.  It seems that every Pleasant Court resident has a secret that they’re hiding.

“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass.” – Benjamin Franklin

This story is told in rotating third-person perspectives from Essie, Ange, Fran and other characters, plus an mysterious first person narrator who is not revealed until the end of the book. This rotating perspective builds each character’s storyline and the pace starts to pick up halfway when the secrets start to be revealed.

I enjoyed this story, but for me, it wasn’t as good as some of the other books that I’ve read with similar themes. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters until 75% into the book. I had challenges keeping the characters straight because they were written so similarly.

I also felt that the characters didn’t really even connect with each other. I wanted a stronger bond between the ladies with more chemistry. Essie, Ange, and Fran are cordial, but they seem to be friends because of their living proximity and their friendship didn’t seem to extend past a superficial level. Each of these women are self-absorbed and mired in their own problems without looking up to see if their neighbors needed their support.

The story is entertaining and well paced but is not a standout for me. However, I have seen many 4 and 5 star reviews with many people loving this book, so please don’t let my review sway you!

If you enjoy literary versions of the TV series Desperate Housewives and enjoy books that center around neighborhoods, scandals, and friendships like Big Little Lies, The Perfect Neighbor, and Other People’s Houses, you will definitely like this book!

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