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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell - Review

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

I have been seeing the sequel to this book, The Family Remains, absolutely all over the place, and my interest was piqued. I reserved both books at the library and currently I'm 9th in the queue for the sequel. But this one arrived and I quickly picked it up. It is really interesting and kept me turning the pages. I read Lisa Jewell way back in the day when I was at uni. I was quite a fan of 'chick lit' then and read her first few books. Then I hadn't thought about her again until I saw these two books, so I'm surprised she's turned to thrillers, but I was very willing to give it a go. And I'm glad I did!

The story has three separate strands. Firstly there is Libby, who is just turning twenty-five. This is pertinent, because she has been left a house in a trust set up by her parents, Henry and Martina Lamb. If neither her brother nor sister turned up before her birthday, the house got left to her. Libby lives in St Albans and enjoys her job, but it doesn't thrill her. Being left a house in Chelsea worth several million pounds will change her life beyond recognition. She is adopted and lost her adoptive father; she's quite self sufficient. Now she owns this ridiculously expensive house. She visits it a couple of times, and on the second occasion she is certain someone else is there. 

She googles the story and finds an extensive piece by a journalist called Miller Roe, which explains that three people were found dead in the house - Henry Lamb, Martina Lamb, and another man with the initials DT. There was a suicide note and the house looked very much like a cult had been living in it. The bodies had been there for around three days - but there was a baby, Libby, upstairs in a cot. She had been well looked after and clearly not abandoned three days before. Neighbours mentioned that there were teenage children living in the house - but where did they go to? 

The next strand of the story is Lucy. She is living in Nice with her two children, Marco and Stella. They are homeless because Lucy makes her living playing the fiddle to scrounge enough money together for a room in a house, but it's broken so she can't work. Marco mentions that he has seen his dad, Michael. Lucy was abused by Michael and hates him, but she knows she needs his help. She has to swallow her pride and go to him. She has a note in her phone saying "The baby is twenty-five" - will she travel back to London to find Libby?

Then the third strand is Henry Lamb, Henry and Martina's son. Brought up in the house and in the lap of luxury for the first ten years of his life, Henry documents the decline of the family and how Martina, Henry, and David ended up dead. The house turned into an abusive commune and Henry has been left quite damaged by what happened. David, his wife Sally, and their children Phin and Clemecy moved in, and everything declined.

I thought this was such a believable book - I liked how everything happened incrementally. I liked Libby and Lucy a lot, and was intrigued to find out what had happened to Henry and co. I am giving this four out of five. 

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