I was really looking forward to reading ‘The People at Number 9‘ – it sounded like a great psychological thriller, and I was expecting to not be able to put it down, and spend a couple of days reading late into the night until it was done.
And yet, now I’ve finished it I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I expected a total page-turner, both from it’s blurb and its description, but it just didn’t do a lot for me. I’ve found this quite hard to write as I feel bad for criticising an author’s hard work and it must feel awful to hear negative comments about your book, but at the same time I have to be honest and I really didn’t enjoy it and found it hard to keep going.
“Sara and Neil have new neighbours in their street. Glamorous and chaotic, Gav and Lou make Sara’s life seem dull. As the two couples become friends, sharing suppers, red wine, and childcare, it seems a perfect couples-match. But the more Sara sees of Gav and Lou, the more she longs to change her own life. But those changes will come at a price.”
I figured at first that it was just a slow starter, but I kept waiting for the point at which I would suddenly be gripped, and yet it unfortuntely never came.
I love to love the characters in a book; it makes the story more real to me, and more relatable, but I just didn’t even really like the main characters or even really have a fondness for them in The People at Number 9. The four main characters seemed a bit under-developed and I just didn’t quite believe them, or believe in them. Neither did I really believe in their friendship, which is the main focus of the book. They just didn’t really seem to mesh well together, or ever be fully relaxed and happy in each others company – so it was hard to understand how they got ever closer throughout the book.
I couldn’t quite grasp the personality of the main protaganist, Sara. I got the impression that she was trying to be something she is not, throughout the book, and that is part of the storyline, but I never quite felt like I knew who she really was, underneath it all. Sara puts up with an awful lot from her neighbour Lou, and her and her husband are taken for fools by the other couple over and over again. And yet she is still desperate to be close to her, and spend time with her, until quite suddenly she isn’t anymore and it just doesn’t feel very genuine.
At times I liked Gav, particularly more than the others, perhaps because he seemed the most genuine, and yet I felt like there were inconsistencies with his character too. Another thing that particularly bothered me was when the kids were neglected more than once. The four parents smoke pot together more than once whilst there are young kids around, including getting off their face with the kids in the house at one point. There is no mention of the kids being taken to their respective beds on that night, despite the party ending early in the morning. It just didn’t make sense to me that Sara and Neil would suddenly be ok with that kind of thing and want to be involved with it, just because that was how the other couple lived. Yes, they worshipped the ‘new’ couple, but surely not at the expense of their much-loved children? It made me a bit cross and annoyed.
I really liked the premise of the book, and I thought it could work really well; finding out all about the complexities of the relationships between the neighbours and how they became twisted, even without anything major happening. But it still felt like the whole thing was just building up to nothing. I kept waiting for something to happen and it just never really came. I only felt like I wanted to keep reading about sixty pages from the end and I feel like that was probably just because I needed some kind of conclusion.
I love the cover of the book – the colours are great together and it really makes you want to read it, with the tagline ‘Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?’. It sounds like it’s going to be a dark novel about friendship, but it just isn’t that dark, and honestly, I’m on nobodies side. I don’t really like any of them, there is very little that is endearing about them and makes you want to root for them and that’s very unusual in a book. I really need that in a book though and so I don’t think I ever connected to it unfortunately.
The People at Number 9 has actually been commissioned for development as a television series by Lionsgate UK and I actually think that could be pretty good, which probably sounds a bit ironic. I feel like the characters could be developed a lot more, and portray their complicated and messed up relationships more. I think it would be a lot more interesting to watch.
I clearly didn’t really enjoy The People at Number 9; it just didn’t grasp my attention like some books too and I struggled to keep reading. I really liked the idea, and perhaps some people may enjoy the complexity of the relationships, without the presence of any major twists and turns, but unfortunately it wasn’t for me.
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