The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
The Family Next Door is a book that explores the secrets of a small community at Pleasant Court during a Melbourne heatwave. On the outside, this would seem the safest of suburbs with happy families enjoying raising their children, perfect suburbia. When Isabelle arrives, she doesn’t fit the mould. She is single and childless, and she is renting, whereas everyone else married with children and they own their own home. And she is very interested in her new neighbours – and seems to know too much about them. It turns out she is there to uncover a secret, but it soon becomes apparent that other secrets are lurking behind the pleasant community.
Essie is a mother of two, and she made a dreadful mistake with her first child that she regrets – and although she has recovered, she fears she might make a similar mistake again. Meanwhile successful real estate agent Ange seems to have it all with her husband and his movie-star looks and her perfect children, but it is soon clear that things are not what they seem. And Fran has taken to running obsessively since the birth of her latest child – but what is she trying to run away from? All these stories collide and escalate as a Melbourne heatwave descends on the suburb.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and it explores themes that are meatier than the opening pages suggest. It deftly explores the notion of how little we sometimes know our neighbours, even when we see them on a regular basis. The reader discovers that all of the characters have secrets, some of which are explosive and life-changing. The characters are nicely rounded and believable, and the plotline is very nicely done. I enjoyed it was set in Melbourne, somewhere a bit closer to home, and it has a great sense of place. The Family Next Door is skilfully written. If you like books by Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult, I predict you will love this novel.