The Girl Below by Bianca Zander
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: June 19, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher
Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .
After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . . –(summary excerpt from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I was initially attracted to The Girl Below by its beautiful cover. I mean, really, it is stunning. The story itself is a bit of an odd mystery – very intriguing and I could not for the life of me figure it out. This kept me up late reading and trying hard to piece together exactly what was going on in this slightly-creepy tale by Bianca Zander. I really liked it.
The story opens when Suki Piper returns to London after being absent for about ten years. Suki grew up in London and expected to be welcomed back by old friends and acquaintances, but was disappointed to find that not a single person seemed excited to see her. Without a prospect for a job, or a place to live, or friends to hang out with, Suki quickly becomes a little saddened. She settles on the couch of a friend and remains there, job-hunting by day and living off of friends by night. Eventually, after wearing out her welcome in a place or two, she finds a friend that gives her something to do during her days to remain occupied until a job becomes available: Suki is to spend a week caring for her friend Pippa’s ailing mother while her nurse is on vacation, and then Suki is to house-sit while Pippa and the family go on vacation to Greece. The catch: teenage-son Caleb will also be staying in the house with Suki while the family vacations. Pretty awkward, sure, but Suki thinks she can manage.
Some things about The Girl Below:
- Suki has a poor self-esteem and this is evident throughout the entire story. And I completely understand why. Her mother is no longer living and her father is uninterested in having his daughter in his life. She has all of these old friends that used to be her friends when she lived in London ten years ago, but lives and people change and grow up in the course of ten years. So Suki spends a lot of time sulking. This makes building relationships difficult for her because few people want to hang around people like this. For this reason, Pippa is awesome – because Pippa is a good friend. While there is not much development of Suki through the story (that isn’t the type of story this is), at the end there is a ton of hope and Suki is on the mend. So things are hopeful for her self-esteem to improve!
- Pippa’s mother Peggy is a bit of an eccentric lady. She is fun to read. Suki knew them from living in the same building as them years ago. Pippa used to babysit Suki, and she always liked her very much. Peggy is very ill and needs care, and is very misunderstood – she feels Suki is the only one that understands her, and interestingly, for a time, Suki feels the same way about Peggy. Their friendship is a bit odd, but there is a sweet relationship that forms here, and I liked it. In the beginning, I did not realize it would play such a big role, but I was wrong. The relationship between Peggy and Suki is quite large, and very charming.
- Caleb, Pippa’s son, is being bullied in school. He is not doing his homework. He is rebellious, he is drinking, he is experimenting with drugs. Pippa and her husband Ari are, of course, unable to connect with him – as parent often are unable to connect with their teenage children. Pippa asks Suki if she can try and talk to Caleb, and for whatever reason, Caleb responds well to Suki. The relationship that these two form is…kind of wishy-washy and unusual. It says a great deal about Pippa and her self-esteem/character that her closest friend is a teenage boy, since she is 28. This is a book relationship that you will have to form your own opinions about, but I think in terms of the story it was written very well and added a ton of depth.
While all of the relationships are being formed, there is the unusual weight that Suki keeps carrying around that she is having difficulty dealing with: long ago, when she was just a girl, she fell down an air-raid hatch and she cannot get this event to quit following her around. This event was horrifying to her as she was just a child and it was scary and dark down there. Her mind is a bit boggled and confused as to exactly what surrounded that event and it has haunted her relentlessly since that time. Coming back to London, back to the very building in which this accident took place, has only seemed to exacerbate her terror and nightmares and visions. Suki is having trouble sleeping, eating, and functioning because of this. She cannot escape the events of this night, and she needs to figure out exactly what happened so she can move past it. The Girl Below is the story of Suki’s need to find her own life after accepting that life has changed without her parents in it, rebuild old friendships, and move beyond the nightmare that has plagued her for years and years of her life – all at one time.
(with Some Supernatural/Magic)
Stories that are just a little bit creepy!
Alternating Chapters: Past & Present
The Girl Below by Bianca Zander
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