Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
This is the first of many questions on the intensive application to live at One Folgate Street, a sterile, minimalist, smart-house just outside of London. The massive home comes relatively cheap in exchange for the occupant’s compliance with 200 rules and regulations, all monitored by its architect, Edward Monkford.
Jane is willing to do away with her books, knickknacks, and anything that might cause clutter, and follow the unconventional rules – questionnaires and surveys need to be completed or the computerized house will shut the hell down – because she’s aching to escape and start over. She’s recently suffered a personal tragedy, which makes her susceptible to the seductive nature of both the house and its owner. Unfortunately for Jane, they both have dark secrets.
When Jane learns that a few years prior a young woman named Emma, who looked remarkably like Jane, died in One Folgate Street, she becomes obsessed with finding out how and why. In doing so, she falls down the rabbit hole of Emma’s complicated life and Emma’s own relationship with Edward Monkford, and begins to make the same kinds of decisions Emma did.
The Girl Before alternates points of view each chapter, with Jane’s investigation in the present day, and Emma’s experience in her own words a few years prior. This makes for a compelling experience as the reader tries to figure out the mystery with Jane, while hoping she doesn’t suffer Emma’s fate. Like similar novels Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, you’re never quite sure if you can trust Jane’s or Emma’s accounts, and while some may tire from the recent surge of unreliable narrators in suspense thrillers, it works in The Girl Before. Its been optioned as a film to be directed by Ron Howard, so it will be interesting to see how that translates on the screen.
As the third act began to wind down, the story became a tad predictable, but it delivers a final twist that will have you reconsidering everything that came before – in a good way.