The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.

About the Author:

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

My Review:

I’m a huge fan of Lisa Jewell’s later books especially the darker fiction (Then She Was Gone, I Found You and Watching You) so I was thrilled when I saw she has a new book coming out on 8th August.

The Family Upstairs is probably her darkest book yet (I’m visualising Lisa writing this book in pitch black with a miner’s helmet it’s that dark!).  It’s also quite disturbing, uncomfortable and addictive too as I read it in one afternoon.

I saw Lisa talking on a panel at the Harrogate Crime Festival this year about the inspiration behind the book and she told the audience she was in France one summer at a posh restaurant/beach club and saw a bedraggled woman with 2 young children sneak into the establishment and use the shower facilities which made her wonder where they had come from and what their story was and this planted a little seed in her imagination and the result was The Family Upstairs.

The book is narrated by several of the main characters each with a fascinating story and a dual timeline which keeps the reader guessing and turning those pages eager to find out more.  Libby lives and works in St Albans and on her 25th birthday she inherits a mansion in Chelsea.  When she visits the now dilapidated and run down house she discovers something horrifying about her past and her family.  Lucy lives in France with her two young children and dog, she’s homeless and desperate to protect and provide for her children at any cost and Henry, the third narrator, grew up in the house in Chelsea with his parents and sister and some extremely unsavoury and disturbing house guests.

I loved this book and devoured it almost in one straight sitting.  If you like dark, disturbing and uncomfortable psychological thrillers then I would recommend The Family Upstairs

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