The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – Book review

I was given The Family Upstairs for my birthday. It might not have caught my eye otherwise but I’m so glad it did! I’m in a slight reading slump so when a book gets a hold on me, I know it’s a good one. This is a highly engaging psychological thriller with just the right amount of twists and reveals.

Opening sentence: It would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was normal before they came.

Who is the family upstairs?

Well I found the title a bit weird actually, there isn’t really a family upstairs but there is a family at the centre of this story.

Told in three narratives we meet Henry in 1988 Chelsea, then in the present – Lucy in France and Libby, previously known as Serenity Lamb, in England. The chapters tantalisingly reveal more about the back and current story through each narrator leading to more than a few gasp out loud moments!

Libby lives a quiet, organised life in At Albans when she discovers, on her 25th birthday, that she’s inherited a rather expensive house near the King’s Road, Chelsea. She was adopted as a baby and the house has come from her birth parents.

She was told her parents died in an accident but what reveals itself definitely has more cult like vibes… Libby learns that the mysterious David, his wife Sally and their children Phineas and Clemency ended up living with her family at the Chelsea house, with devastating consequences.

“All men are weak,” said Phin. “That’s the whole bloody trouble with the world. Too well to love properly. Too weak to be wrong.”

Love an unreliable narrator

The scene setting throughout The Family Upstairs is great. You’re not sure who is narrating the chapters at first so the reveals are high impact and the developments in plot kept coming – it worked so well.

Yes, there were a few convenient moments and things thrown in for added drama but the blend of earnest and unreliable narrators made this so much fun to read. Libby’s blossoming relationship with investigative journalist, Miller Roe also adds further depth.

A few sensitive topics are covered but the short, snappy chapters made it so easy to read and the ending was both satisfying and left on a tantalising note. As all good psychological thrillers should do. There is actually a sequel – The Family Remains – which is going straight on my TBR list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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