The Family Upstairs was my first read of July and is my first Lisa Jewell book. I’d seen that Lisa Jewell has a good reputation for writing really good thrillers with Then She Was Gone another of her successes so was excited to read The Family Upstairs and see what all the hype was about. I’m pleased to say she’s done a good job with this novel.
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The Family Upstairs tells the tale of a woman who inherits the house from her long-lost parents only to realise it has a very dark history that we slowly learn about throughout the book. The premise brought me in as I knew it was going to be quite dark and I love a story with a dark twist.
Plot – 4.5/5
Libby Jones returns home to a letter telling her that she has an enormous house left to her in a will from her long-lost parents. It’s a letter that will finally help her find out the true story of what happened to her in that house. What ensues is a tale told from the point of view of Henry, a boy who lived in the house with her parents. We learn how the house went from a loving family home into a house controlled by one man as part of a cult. It’s very very interesting.
The story is told by telling you the outcome at the very beginning and then proceeding to lead you to this point throughout the rest of the book. It grabs you right from the start and then drops little nuggets of information regularly enough to keep you reading.
There are three storylines running in tandem throughout the novel, one from the point of Libby in modern-day as she learns of her past, another in modern-day of Lucy and her struggles and how she ends being connected to this same story and then that, as mentioned earlier, of Henry set back in the 80s and 90s when the tale of the family is being told. It’s easy to discern whose story is being told as each character is living such a different life.
Characters – 4/5
Lisa Jewell clearly has a knack for writing good characters. I define an author as being able to write good characters by either making me fall in love with them (they’re funny, kind, they have a redemption story, they show vulnerabilities, etc) or by involving many characters in the novel and making it easy to define them via their personalities. In The Family Upstairs, the characters are more towards the latter. I do enjoy Libby as a character, she’s very down-to-earth, modest and sweet from the little we read of her. Lucy seems like a dedicated mother who has accepted the darkness of the world and will do anything for a better life for her children. Then Henry, the young boy who we arguably read the most about is passionate and intelligent far beyond his years.
These are some good characters, none of whom are outstanding and none of whom I would likely remember or yearn for in the upcoming announced sequel.
The Family Upstairs summary – 4/5
The Family Upstairs had received some hype, both from what I’d read online and my own partner and some of her friends before I went into it. I did enjoy the book, I loved the premise, the story was told very well and I had a lot of time for the twists and turns it brought with it, but I simply wouldn’t say it was a five out of five for me.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a dark tale, those who love a mystery and those who love thrillers. Lisa Jewell clearly had a concept in her head when she was writing this and has executed it very well. This is one of those novels that takes quite some intelligence to fulfil the potential of and Jewell clearly has plenty. A big success.