#BookReview Girl A by Abigail Dean

Girl AAbout the Book

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped, the eldest sister who freed her older brother and four younger siblings.

It’s been easy enough to avoid her parents – her father never made it out of the House of Horrors he created, and her mother spent the rest of her life behind bars. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Format: Paperback (336 pages)              Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 30th September 2021 Genre: Thriller

Find Girl A on Goodreads

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My Review

Girl A was this month’s choice for the book club run by my local Waterstones. (It was also their Thriller of the Month.) I’m not completely sure I would categorise it as a thriller, although it does contain a sort of ‘twist’ that might give you a different perspective on earlier parts of the book.  For me, Girl A is more an exploration of the psychological impact of trauma.

Told mostly from the perspective of Lex, the narrative moves back and forth in time between the terrible experiences of Lex and her siblings during their time in the ‘House of Horrors’, the period following their escape, and years later after the death of their birth mother.  Since the changes in time period often occurred without any clear indication, I did find myself confused at times. Also I wasn’t sure what some of the sub-plots added to the book, such as the details of Lex’s latest work assignment, although I appreciate this does show she was able to forge a successful career as a lawyer despite her earlier experiences.

Their experiences have affected each sibling in different ways. Some have to some extent moved on from their experiences, forging new lives and relationships.  Others remain damaged, often leaving them open to manipulation. Lex herself, despite therapy and the fact it was she who ensured their escape, seems to retain a sense of guilt that she was unable to prevent the terrible things that happened to her siblings. Her response is to block out certain facts and to deny any connection between what she endured and her continuing inclination towards risky behaviour.

Most interesting for me was what, bit by bit, we learn about the dynamics between the siblings during their imprisonment; what behaviours they were forced to adopt to avoid or deflect the physical and mental abuse of their father.  The reason for their mother’s complicity is never spelled out. Was she the victim of coercive control, so consumed by love for her husband that she was prepared to tolerate his treatment of the children, or blinded by the same religious fervour that he used as justification?

Judging by other reviews, Girl A is something of a ‘Marmite’ book: some readers have loved it whilst others disliked it, or even gave up on it.  I think I’m in between in that there were elements of it I found interesting but overall it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I found parts of it uncomfortable to read to the extent it felt almost voyeuristic. Prompted by a comment from another reader, I was also surprised to find out just how much the details of the events in the ‘House of Horror’ mirror those in the real-life case of the Turpin family.

In three words: Unsettling, dark, intense

Try something similarEducated by Tara Westover

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Abigail Final ImagesAbout the Author

Abigail Dean was born in Manchester, and grew up in the Peak District. She graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in English. Formerly a Waterstones bookseller, she spent five years as a lawyer in London, and took summer 2018 off to work on her debut novel, Girl A, ahead of her thirtieth birthday. Abigail works as a lawyer for Google, and is currently writing her second novel, The Conspiracies. She has always loved reading, writing, and talking about books. (Photo: Goodreads author page)

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2 thoughts on “#BookReview Girl A by Abigail Dean

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