This Writer Gal

Kakul Ehsan Butt

The Family Upstairs


The tagline in the back cover of the book reads:

“In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?”

The story follows three viewpoints: Lucy, Libby and Henry. Henry provides narration in first person and is at the heart of the story. Libby inherits the multi-million pounds house in Chelsea when she turns twenty-five years of age. The author wastes no time to let us know Libby is adopted and that she is surprised by the inheritance. Lucy remains a mystery until near the end. There is a sense of urgency about her and we are given hints that she might be connected to the house.

The structure follows an orderly fashion, so you know whose turn it is leading the next chapter. Journeying to the past and present day simultaneously is handled very well and with natural ease.

Henry narrates from the past and slowly comes to the present day as the story comes to an end. He begins the story as a young boy living with his sister and their rich parents. Their beautiful home is furnished with the most expensive items. After the family fall through hard times, so does the house. The deterioration of the family upon the arrival of another family also lead to the deterioration of the house. Once furnished, the house is now bereft of furniture.

By the time Libby comes to Chelsea, the house is a site of utter neglect and desolation. As a reader, I journey through the house with Libby feeling unsettled. I do not want to be there and neither does Libby.

When Lucy arrives to the house, it is when all the dots start to connect. Her reaction to the house is contained now that she has two young children with her. Perhaps she is anxious for the dots to finally connect and for us the readers to finally get the answers to the question set in the tagline.

The Family Upstairs is a psychological thriller that will have you binge-reading the book. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody who like their books with a dollop of suspense.

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