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Review: The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

The Girl Below
by Bianca Zander


After spending the last ten years in New Zealand in self-imposed exile, Suki Piper decides to return to London, where she lived until the death of her mother. But when she arrives in England, Suki realizes that the world didn't stop when she left, and there's no one waiting for her here. Old friends are distant. The building she grew up in is leased to other tenants. Suki is so desperate for a connection that she latches on to Peggy, a woman who lived in her old apartment building. Peggy's daughter used to babysit Suki, and as the months pass she takes Suki under her wing, hoping that the younger woman will be able to connect with her hostile teenage son. Suki, during her time in London, has begun to suffer flashbacks, triggered by childhood memories. Is she slipping back into the past or merely hallucinating? The only thing that Suki can be certain of is that her memories are slippery, tricky things that change form the more she examines them.

Suki is an unreliable narrator. The more we learn about her, the clearer it becomes that she's unable or unwilling to cope with her past. She's spent the past ten years fleeing it, whether by creating physical distance by moving to New Zealand or trying to escape it in a fog of drugs. Worse than being untrustworthy is the fact that Suki is an unpleasant person to read about. She arrives in London expecting to be taken care of – and proceeds to crash on an old friend's couch for months. She doesn't find a job, and even though she has a long list of reasons why she hasn't yet landed one it all boils down to the fact that she doesn't seem to be trying all that hard. What really annoyed me, though, was she expected that childhood friends that she hadn't spoken to in ten years would be just as eager to be BFFs again – and when one of them dares to point out that Suki is self-obsessed and unpleasant to be around because she only cares about herself – well, Suki blows it off. Her friend, of course, is dead on – and it is rather unpleasant to read a novel about a young woman who just whines and complains and avoids addressing her problems. Maybe it'd be different if there was some humor here, but the novel aims for a gothic, moody atmosphere. It winds up being rather mopey, all in all.

Throughout the book there are hints at something supernatural interfering with Suki's childhood, or her memories – it's all very vague, and it isn't ever fully explained. The ending is thoroughly unsatisfying for two main reasons: one, the supernatural element is never explained (and it's never confirmed whether it was “real” or just a figment of Suki's disturbed brain) and two, we are introduced to lots of interesting secondary characters, and Suki's just too inwardly focused to let the reader know whether their problems are resolved, too. Heck, Suki barely notices other people's issues, and it's a pity, because her former babysitter's family is far more intriguing than Suki's attention-seeking, self-obsessed mind.

2 out of 5 stars


To read more about The Girl Below, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.




Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
2011: Photos: 20 Celebrites with Stunning Home Libraries
2010: News: Press “Pause” on the Piranha
2009: Giveaway #9: Three Chinese Stories WINNER!
2008: Women of the Bible: Abigail's Story by Ann Burton

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