The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The People at Number 9 is a slow-burning, character-driven story about the dynamics of friendship. Sara and Neil have new neighbours move in next door and over a period of time, they become very close to the quirky Lou and Gav.
As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Sara’s outlook on life is being subtly manipulated by this new friendship. The two couples’ children become close, and it slowly evolves into something Sara thought was for the greater good.
Lou is an up and coming screenwriter and Gav is a sculptor, they have hardly any house rules and seem to have the perfect marriage. Their lifestyle is carefree and fun, and soon Sara and Neil spend every spare moment with them, making their own lives a little less mundane and regimental.
This was an unusual read for me, I was up and down with it like a yo-yo. What I thought was going to be a slightly dark, twisty character study, actually turned out to be an extremely slow moving, intense look at how people interact with one another. It was ultimately about how changing attitudes and decisions can have an adverse impact on life, family and future.
If you’re looking for a story with lots of psychological thrills and plot twists, choose something else. However, if you enjoy reading about how relationships stand the test of time, and don’t mind feeling uncomfortably up close and personal with the protagonists, I’d recommend this.
I found at times, I was wondering if anything was ever going to happen. Did this even have a plot?! At half way through, I was contemplating calling it a day, but something was driving me on. When I got to around 70%, and still nothing in particular was going on, it dawned on me that this wasn’t the kind of book I thought it would be. What I did realise though was that I was so intrigued by the two couples relationships, I absolutely needed a conclusion.
Felicity Everett’s writing was a bit hit and miss. It was easy to read with a slow but steady flow, but occasionally I felt that the use of flowery language didn’t belong. I would be in mid-sentence and then some obscure word would be thrown in purely to try and impress the reader. Instead of adding a bit of intellect, it stuck out like a sore thumb, screaming ‘here’s a good word for you, I’m such a wordy author’. For example, when the word ‘nascent’ cropped up, I’d not heard of it and looked it up in the dictionary. When it appeared again a few chapters later, I rolled my eyes I’m afraid. Some stories suit a bit of arty-farty language, it didn’t do this one any favours.
And while I’m on the subject of the writing style, some of the descriptions made me cringe! I’m not squeamish by a long chalk, but up close and personal it definitely was.
‘….relishing the ripe, mushroom-y scent of him’.
‘….with her husband’s semen coagulating on her inner thigh..’
Urgh! No! Too much, too much! If my other half had a ripe, mushroom-y scent, I’d be suggesting a bath, or a trip to the doctor. And I really don’t want to think about coagulation of bodily fluids thanks.
Aside from my gripes, The People at Number 9 was different and I was surprised, intrigued, and irritated by it’s style. I was glad I kept at it as the conclusion was satisfying. What kept me going was the tiniest hint all the way through that some serious shit was going to hit the fan. It just took an eternity to get to there.
This story wasn’t about getting to the conclusion, it was about the journey. I can see Everetts vision with this, and she did a good job at keeping me ticking over. This book is for patient readers who don’t mind waiting for something to happen. It simmers with very little mystery, but for me, there was something that hooked me, but I’ve no idea what.
I’d like to thank the publisher, HQ, the author, Felicity Everett and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.