Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble

An ensemble piece, this novel by Noble invites readers into the lives of very disparate characters connected only by the fact that they live in the same co-op building in New York City. There's Eve and Ed who have moved to New York from England for Ed's job. There's Violet, an elderly British woman who has kept herself aloof from others in the building until she meets the desperately lonely Eve. There are the Kramers and the Schulmans, both of whom are suffering marriage crises of different kinds. There's the disolute, unemployed, mid-twenties son of wealthy parents who falls in love with a gorgeous, driven woman in the building. Charlotte is a shy romantic who lives vicariously through her friends. Madison is a predatory man-eater whose major goal in life is to snag a wealthy husband. And these are only a few of the residents. Some of their stories intersect but not all of them do, with characters living tandem lives that never touch.

The vast cast of characters and plot lines give this an episodic feel as each chapter focuses on the lives of different residents of the building. The danger, of course, is that some characters get short shift and that is definitely the case here. The lives of the characters vary in their ability to interest the reader as they range from everyday issues to bigger problems like infidelity and great tragedy. Because the narrative moves back and forth so frequently, it is difficult to become fully engaged with any of the story arcs although, British transplant Eve seems the most fully realized and her story the most engrossing overall. The biggest disappointment for me was the superficiality of each segmented part as the characters moved from hurdle to hurdle in their own rather insulated lives. The writing was reasonable though so this might make a decent beach read for those so inclined.

6 comments:

  1. I was not impressed with this book when I read it.

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  2. I am not a huge Noble fan but damned if I don't sob my little eyes out every time I read something by her!

    Love your review. It seems to capture everything I like/don't like about her writing.

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  3. I read the Reading Group by Noble and liked it but that was also an "ensemble piece" and there just wasn't enough of some characters - interesting that she went with the same format this time.

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  4. This sounds like an interesting idea for a book -- I like the idea of ensemble pieces. After all, one of my favorite movies is Love Actually. :-) However, it does sound like none of the characters are developed fully. Thanks for the honest review!

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  5. I like the idea of the book, but maybe the execution wasn't the best. I still haven't tried Noble yet, but read so many good things about her books.

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