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Haven't They Grown by Sophie Hannah - Review

Sunday, May 30, 2021

I finished this book while sitting in A&E one Wednesday morning in late April, waiting to be seen. I've had some ongoing health issues and I was waiting for surgery but the pain had got so much in the last week of April that I phoned an ambulance. The paramedic agreed I probably did need one, but there was an hour wait, so Lee drove me to the hospital instead. He obviously couldn't come in with me, so had to come home, and I first had to sit and wait and then lie on a bed and wait. I was in too much pain to read to begin with, but they gave me some codeine which really helped, and then I felt okay to read. I had good care from all the doctors I saw; I'm so grateful for our NHS. Anyway, on to the book...

I saw someone reading this online I think, or I saw a review, and I was intrigued by the premise, so I placed a hold on it at my library, and it quickly arrived. I've read some of Sophie's books before and have liked them, so I had high hopes for this. 

So, Beth Leeson is in her early forties and is married to Dom. They have two children, Zannah and Ben, and live a comfortable middle class life near Cambridge. Beth seems to be mostly occupied with how much screen time her children have and the fact Zannah is doing no GCSE revision. One Saturday morning Ben has a football match in nearby St Ives (who knew there was a St Ives in Cambridgeshire?!) and Beth is reminded of the address of an ex friend of hers, Flora, who moved to just after the friendship ended twelve years ago. So she decides to visit the address. She goes with Ben, but can't see much, so after dropping him off at the football match, she goes back. 

Flora was married to Lewis Braid, and had two small children a similar age to Zannah and Ben, called Thomas and Emily. Lewis inherited a lot of money and Dom thinks that's what put a barrier between the two families, but Beth knows the truth. Flora had a third child, Georgina, and there were several things that happened around the birth of Georgina that put a barrier between Beth and Flora. 

Flora now lives in a big gated house on a private road. While Beth is there, she comes home in her Range Rover, and lets two children out of the car. She calls them Thomas and Emily, but they are still the tiny children Beth remembers. They are still five and three. But how can that be? She overhears a strange conversation Flora has on the phone, in which Flora says "I'm lucky. I'm very lucky." 

Beth tells her husband and Zannah, and the three of them look the family up online. Lewis is living in Florida, and his instagram is full of photos of himself, and a seventeen and fifteen year old Thomas and Emily. He responds enthusiastically to a message Beth sends, but then she realises there are no photos of Flora or Georgina online. She speaks to Lewis, and then also Flora. She hears Flora's voice say "I'm very lucky", but she's convinced that all is not right in Florida, and that the woman she saw in Cambridgeshire WAS Flora. 

She goes to try to learn more, but is put off by one of Flora's neighbour. However, she's then in Huntingdon when she sees Flora coming towards her. Flora scuttles off, and Beth then meets a woman who says she lives in Flora's house, and that her children are called Toby and Emma, NOT Thomas and Emily. 

Beth won't let it go, though, even though Dom would really like her to. She remembers Lewis as a boorish, overbearing man, who often made a fuss and left Flora embarrassed, and she's convinced something is really rotten within the family. Of course she has to pursue it, because otherwise there wouldn't be a book. 

I liked the first half, I liked the mystery of what was happening. I didn't quite like the ending; I thought there was too much telling and not enough showing. I thought it was a bit ridiculous actually. I also didn't like how Beth paid little to no attention to her second child, Ben. He's barely there, in fact. But I'm giving this four out of five because I found it compelling. 

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