I remember I was at Sixth Form when I first discovered Lesley Pearse. I borrowed her novel Never Look Back from the library and it was love at first chapter. Fast forward 18 years and I have read everything she has ever written and I own every novel at least once. I am a huge fan, and so when my Twitterverse wish to review her latest novel The House Across the Street was granted, I was beyond excited (happy dances were done).
The main character, Katy Speed is a young woman who is fascinated by Gloria, the owner of the house across the street. There are regular visits to her house by a black car which mysteriously drops off women, and sometimes children, which Katy is utterly intrigued by, despite the disapproving comments made by her mother. One terrible night, the house burns down and in the wreckage the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure that the unexplained visitors must be responsible, but before she can find out more, her father is arrested and charged with murder.
The vast majority of the novel is told from the perspective of Katy via third person narration. A classic ‘Lesley’ character, Katy is a strong, female lead. Smart, courageous and driven she trusts her father implicitly and vows to unravel the truth behind the fire. Her investigations soon take a dark turn and she, and others she cares about are soon in danger.
I loved the character of Katy. As a reader I found her to be a very relatable and likeable character. Her flaw is her innocence and naivety, and at one point of the novel I felt like screaming at her to stop what she was doing! I became completely invested in her and was very often unable to turn the light off at night as I had to read ‘just one more chapter’!
I always find the author to have an incredibly warm and engaging way of telling a story. Very often I feel on the periphery of a novel whilst I take my time to become invested in the characters and their story. But whenever I pick up a book by Lesley Pearse, I feel as if I’m taken gently by the hand from page one to become immediately and completely immersed. I don’t think I’ve ever come across another author who puts me at ease quite so easily, and The House Across the Street is no exception.
One of the things I loved most about this novel is the attention to detail in terms of the time period. Set in the 1960s, the sense of time is woven masterfully into every aspect; voice, dialogue and description, it is all encompassing. All too often a novel can be set in the past, but it feels very modern – this however, feels very authentic right from the cover through to the very bare bones of description. The storyline, which explores some very difficult themes, is very much told from the perspective of the era. As it remains so sadly relevant today it would have been very easy to have slipped into a more modern voice, but throughout you get a real sense of what life was like for women in that situation back then. It is both sensitively and skilfully handled by the author. This authenticity is in common with the author’s other novels and is a true testament to the sheer level of research that she must carry out for each novel.
There is so much more I would love to say about this novel, but to do so would give far too much away! Suffice to say that I truly enjoyed The House Across the Street. My only sadness is that it wasn’t a chunkier read; I always feel wrapped in warmth as I read a Lesley Pearse novel, and so I’m always sad to close that last chapter.
Packed full of mystery, secrets, suspense and romance, The House Across the Street is the perfect novel to keep you warm on a cool autumn evening – I highly recommend.
The House Across The Street by Lesley Pearse is published on 6th September in hardback by Michael Joseph priced £20.00. This year is Lesley’s 25th anniversary year in publishing.
Twenty three year old Katy Speed is fascinated by the house across the street. Gloria, the woman who lives there, is the most glamourous neighbour on the avenue, owning a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea that Katy loves to visit. But all is not as is appears. Katy has noticed a black car making regular visits to Gloria’s home often bringing women, and sometimes children. Intrigued, Katy is keen to find out more but Hilda, Katy’s mother, disapproves of Gloria. She wonders if these mysterious visitors have just been released from prison. Is Gloria secretly bringing criminals, or worse, into the heart of their community?
Then one night, the house burns down…..
In the wreckage, the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure the unexplained visitors must be responsible but before she can find out more, her father is arrested and charged with murder. Surely the police have arrested the wrong man? Are the rest of the street safe and can Katy find the truth before it’s too late?
About the Author
Lesley Pearse was told as a child that she had too much imagination for her own good. She left home at 15 and headed to London where she worked her way through many jobs – from corsetry sales in Cooks of St. Pauls (featured in Dead to Me) to musician’s muse (her second husband was a musician managed by Don Arden) to bunny girl to nanny; from gift shop owner to dressmaker – finally finding her true vocation when she became a published author age 49. Since then Lesley has become an internationally bestselling author, with over 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.
A true storyteller and a master of gripping storylines, there is no set formula for a Lesley Pearse novel although strong heroines and difficult circumstances are pervasive. Whether historical adventures such as Gypsy or Never Look Back, or the passionately emotive Trust Me, Lesley is inspired by stories of courage and adversity and often gives voice to women lost in history and people damaged by their childhood experiences. She is passionate about her research and her stories have taken her far and wide; from Alaska to the Crimea. Lesley now lives in Torquay in Devon where she loves to spend time walking on the beach with her grandchildren and dogs. A fantastic speaker and committed and passionate fundraiser for the NSPCC, Lesley is a much sought-after guest at literary lunches, library events and festivals up and down the country.
*I received a proof copy of The House Across the Street in exchange for an honest review.