New Book – The Woman Next Door by Cass Green (Pages 1-81)

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Publication year: 2016

This new novel is told from two different perspectives.

The two narrators are two women, neighbours, living door to door, and they could not be more different. Hester is sixty-two, widowed and childless, and we know from the outset that she is not a easy woman to deal with. She criticises everything and is quite inflexible in her views.

Melissa is quite sophisticated. She is married and has a teenage daughter. Her husband is a doctor, specialised in fertility issues, and he is also a celebrity as he hosts some documentaries that have become quite popular. Yet, things are not happy as Melissa has discovered that her husband had an affair with someone called Sam, but he swears it was not important.

We see that the relationship between the two neighbours is not smooth. Melissa considers Hester a nosy woman as when they first came to live to the neighbourhood, she was always giving her advice about how to raise Tilly. On her part, Hester regrets the relationship with her Melissa has cooled down, and she misses having a better rapport with her. She used to babysit  Tilly, but now the girl acts as if she were a stranger. I think poor Hester is so lonely, but I understand she is not a very welcoming presence.

Melissa is preparing a party to celebrate that Tilly is finishing her GCSEs, and it is obvious from her thoughts that Melissa is hiding something. She has the sensation that someone is watching her, and she keeps thinking of her other life. Hester sees the caterers come to the house, so she decides to bake some scones and bring them over to Melissa. As she does so, Melissa feels obliged to invite her to the party, and Hester jumps at it enthusiastically.

During the party several things happen. Hester gets drunk after just a couple of Pimm’s. She even throws up in Tilly’s room, so Melissa and Tilly put her to sleep in a guest room. We later learn that Melissa’s friend’s son, Nathan, spiked her drink and that is why Hester felt so sick.

This is not the most important event. It is a man that turns up, which brings Melissa’s past with him. His name is Jamie, and he saw Melissa in a photo a magazine published when she was out with her husband. We know that Melissa tries to avoid going to public functions and parties for this very reason. She doesn’t want to be recognized, because it seems she has something to hide. Jamie turns out to be Melissa’s foster brother. We learn that Melissa’s past is rather unsophisticated. Her mother was a drunk and when she died, she was sent to foster homes and that is how she met Jamie. Melissa wants to get rid of him, but Tilly appears, and when she learns that Jamie is Melissa’s foster brother, she insists he stay as it is pouring outside. Melissa is uncomfortable and upset, but when Jamie tells her he only needs a place to crash for one or two nights, she relaxes. We also learn that at some point during the night he comes to her bed and they  have sex. It is when he is leaving her bedroom that he stumbles upon Hester that is on her way out, feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

It is clear that something happened in the past that Melissa wants to hide at all costs. We know that back then her name was Melanie, and the thing she wants to forget about is something that happened after Jamie went to jail. I imagine it must be something illegal or she wouldn’t be so distraught at Jamie’s presence. What is Melissa hiding? What will happen with Jamie? If Hester is one of the narrators, I imagine that she will be important in what is ahead. I wonder what role she will play in the plot other than the nosy neighbour.

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