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Book Review: The Family Upstairs

December 4, 2019

We are getting so close to the end of the year! I've got 7 more books to read in 4 weeks or so so it'll be a rush to the end of the year to finish my 52 books in 52 week challenge. But, I'm definitely close enough to finish the year strong!

 

If you need a refresher as to why I'm doing a weekly book review, check here!

 

This week's book was one full of mystery, secrets, and mistaken identities! So, with no more ado, here is my review of The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell!

 When she turns 25, Libby Jones learns that she inherited a large mansion in Chelsea, London, England from her birth-parents. When she visits her lawyer, she is shocked to learn she was placed for adoption at 10 months old when her parents died of an apparent suicide pact in the mansion. She also learns there was an unidentified man who died in the house, and that her two older siblings, teenagers at the time, disappeared without a trace on the same day. 

 

Libby soon begins research her birth family and what happened in the months before her birth. 

 

She soon meets Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story of her family's death and disappearances. 

 

Miller knows he didn't get the whole story, and together, Libby and Miller decide they are going to discover what really happened in the house in Chelsea.

 

While spending the night, to try and get the feel of the mansion, Libby and Miller discover a man upstairs, who claims to be Phineas Thomsen, one of the children who grew up in the house, but isn't one of Libby's siblings. He invites them to his apartment, just across the river from the mansion. There he tells what happened that summer.

 

Henry and Lucy Lamb were the children who lived in the mansion with their socialite parents. When their father has a stroke, their mother invites a "healer" David Thomsen, and his family to move in.

 

But, the Thomsen's refuse to leave, and soon David is running the house under a strict set of rules. The children aren't allowed outside, and must wear black robes. But, this doesn't stop Henry from learning to plant flowers in the garden, some medicinal, others lethal. When Lucy Lamb gets pregnant at 14 with David's baby, Henry knows he needs to act. After the baby is born, he plans to give the adults a sleeping potion while they escape, but they overdose and die. Henry plants the suicide note, while Lucy and the baby escape. Libby realizes she is Lucy's daughter, and that the man pretending to be Phineas is her uncle Henry. When Lucy comes to town to meet Libby with her other children, they form their own little family. 

 

I found this book haunting! It was never scary, but more creepy, if that makes sense. There were no jump scares, no ghosts, but just an overall sense of bleakness and despair. I didn't love Jewell's style. I don't love novels written in the Third Person, they feel distant, and I think putting it into First Person POV would have made it feel a little more immediate. I think Jewell did an excellent job creating the atmosphere of the novel. It was definitely a creepy novel.

 

I found the setting and the plot awesome. The creepy mansion on Chelsea took on a life of its own in the novel, almost becoming a character itself. Jewell is able to make it seem like this hulking presence even when a section isn't taking place in the house. The plot was very original. I was kept guessing right up until the end, which never happens when I read! I liked how all the twists and turns, and multiple points-of-views kept me wondering what was going to happen next and even, at times, had me guessing if people were remembering the past correctly. 

 

I found the character's a little flat. I think this is in part due to the Third Person POV. It's hard to really develop a character when you are being told their traits and motivations rather than being shown them. Libby never really developed or had any huge changes. Henry and Lucy go through more of a character arc, but they still fell a little flat for me. But, this is ultimately my only complaint for this book.

 

I give The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell a solid 4 out of 5! I liked it a lot! It kept me guessing til the end, but the characters felt a little flat and lifeless. 

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