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Mirkat

Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Currently reading

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
Frances E. Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt, Tavia Gilbert
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio)
David Eagleman

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors - B.A. Paris, Georgia Maguire

 

 

The title, blurb, and first chapter of this book plainly lay out the situation its protagonist, Grace Angel, is in.  As far as the guests of Jack and Grace Angel's dinner party can tell, they are witnessing the perfect couple entertaining in the perfect house, serving perfect food and sharing stories about their perfect relationship.  Jack, an attorney with movie-star good looks, specializes in representing women suffering from domestic abuse.  He even shares he is eager for the day Millie, Grace's younger sister who has Down Syndrome*, turns 18, leaves her school, and moves into the house with Jack and Grace.  Grace seems dedicated to being the ultimate housewife and hostess, cooking flawless gourmet meals, painting, and gardening.  But from Grace's narration, it is clear that the perfection is a facade and that something else is going on below the surface.

 

The first-person narrative alternates between "Present" and "Past" chapters.  The "Past" installments reach back 18 months to when Grace first met Jack, while the "Present" ones carry forward from the night of the dinner party.  It becomes clear that the perfect house is a gilded cage.  Grace, upon accepting Jack's marriage proposal 18 months before, agreed to leave her job as a buyer for Harrod's, and "now" she is either in the house or, if she is out and about, she is constantly accompanied by her ever-attentive husband.  She doesn't have a cell phone or her own email account, and anyone calling for her on the house phone is usually told that she is unavailable.  Invitations for lunches either end up with sudden excuses not to show ("migraine") or Jack crashes the lunch.

 

My feelings about this book were all over the place; at times I felt I would give it a very low rating, while at others my opinion swung the other way.  The narrative propelled me forward so I "needed" to see how things unfolded.  Certain elements of characterization strained credulity for me (i.e. cardboard character-type character).  There were moments where I cringed at some over-explaining ("'I'm sorry,' I apologized.").  If this were a movie, it would be an old-school "woman in jeopardy" Lifetime movie (and I see that others have drawn that comparison in reviews).  Or if it were made into a feature film in the 1990s, Julia Roberts would have played Grace.

 

One of the things I found interesting was that there were elements in the opening chapter that did not make full sense until later in the narrative, so I found myself going back and rereading the opening after I was done.  I also read the closing chapter twice.  The fact that I wanted to do that increased my estimation of the novel somewhat.

 

As others have pointed out, this book is not another Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.  It is much too cards-on-the table for that type of comparison.  It is compulsively readable/listenable. (Although I primarily listened to the audiobook, I also checked out the print book to review parts I'd listened to, and I ended up reading the last 10% or so in print.)

 

*The book keeps referring to this as "Down's Syndrome."