Source: Audiobook review copy
Publication: 21 January 2021 from Harper Collins
Narrator : Holliday Grainger
Length: 11 hours 12 minutes
ASIN no: B08B1X7QGL
My thanks to the Publisher for an advance copy for review purposes
Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.
Girl A is one of the most talked about novels of January 2021 and I was really looking forward to listening to the audiobook, having very much enjoyed a sampler previously. Very well narrated by the modulated, calm tones of Holly Grainger, Girl A is the story of Alexandra Gracie, told by her of living in the ‘House of Horrors’ with her six siblings and their mother and father.
As the book opens, we are in the present day. Lexie’s mother has just died in prison and Lexie is the executor of her will and the one who has to decide what to do with the house and the small legacy of £20,000 that is left. Now living in New York, she has to stay in England to negotiate the will with each of her brothers and sisters.
The narrative switches time frames quite often without signalling so it can be quite interesting at times to keep up with whether we are in the past or present. Girl A is rather beautifully and evocatively written and has none of the exploitative horror that you might have expected. The matter of fact-ness of the narrative is one of the things that makes the book chilling.
Yet, you can’t help be a little disassociated from Lexie. She’s a character whose life has been very difficult, but who you never warm to – perhaps because she has never had a good relationship herself. That has its drawbacks, however, as you never really emotionally engage with Lexie and though her upbringing was indeed pretty horrible and abusive, that experience never quite sears its way into your consciousness in the way you might expect.
Girl A is a detailed exploration of trauma and the after effects; it is an in depth character study of how Lexie has handled her upbringing and how she copes with what she has experienced.
Through Lexie’s narration we understand the various characters, her siblings and their parents and everything we understand is from her perspective. We also get a fascinating perspective on the role of the media in such cases and it isn’t pretty.
There are moments when the silence in this narration prevails and that really makes a point in a way that words would not and Dean’s writing style is quietly tough and sometimes devastating.
Verdict: Well-written, nicely plotted and not sensationalised, this is an interesting story with some compelling moments and a plot moment that was easily anticipated, but was nonetheless impactful. In the end, I think I expected something stronger and more emotionally engaging, but maybe that says more about me than the story? Still very much worth a listen/read, even if not wholly for me.
Abigail Dean is a writer from Manchester, living in south London. Her first novel, GIRL A, was published in the UK in January 2021, and was an instant Sunday Times Bestseller. GIRL A will be published in the US on February 2 2021.