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Girl A: The Sunday Times and New York Times global best seller, an astonishing new crime thriller debut novel from the biggest literary fiction voice of 2021 Paperback – 21 January 2021
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- Publisher : HarperCollins (21 January 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008439338
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008439330
- Dimensions : 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.1 cm
- Customer Reviews:
‘Sensational’ RICHARD OSMAN
‘Psychologically astute, written with flair. In the new year battle between first thrillers it’s the clear winner’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘Superb. Authentic, humane and full of hope’ GUARDIAN
‘The novel you’ll stay up reading until 3am’ SUNDAY TIMES STYLE
‘Powerful, evocative and accomplished’ SUNDAY EXPRESS
‘Astonishingly good’ OBSERVER
‘VC Andrews for Generation Z’ THE TIMES
‘An unmissable debut. Absorbing and powerful’ DAILY EXPRESS
‘This haunting, bruising drama has a gut-punch of a twist’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
‘A powerful read, an astonishing debut’ PRIMA
‘A gripping and eerie read’ BBC ONLINE
‘A riveting page-turner, full of hope in the face of despair’ SOPHIE HANNAH for THE GUARDIAN
‘Deft yet devastating. An astonishing achievement' JESSIE BURTON
‘Utter genius’ JOANNA CANNON
‘A masterpiece’ LOUISE O’NEILL
‘Terrifyingly gripping’ SUSIE STEINER
‘Fantastic, I loved it’ PAULA HAWKINS
‘Dark, compelling’ JANE FALLON
‘Incredibly well written, devastating in a good way’ LIZ NUGENT
‘A scorcher of a debut’ EMMA GANNON
‘Girl A gives you no option but to put your life on pause’ STACEY HALLS
‘Pitch black, but with such a thread of tenderness’ BETH MORREY
‘A modern-day classic’ JEFFERY DEAVER
‘Beautiful’ ADELE PARKS
‘Insanely gripping’ MARIAN KEYES
‘Remarkable’ CHRIS WHITAKER
‘Tremendously accomplished’ JANE CASEY
‘Powerful, immersive’ HARRIET TYCE
‘Intense, haunting, powerful’ T.M. LOGAN
‘A gripping novel’ OPRAH MAGAZINE
‘The biggest mystery thriller since Gone Girl’ ELLE
‘Grips from the first page’ THE BOOKSELLER
‘One of 2021’s biggest debuts’ COSMOPOLITAN
‘A dark thriller with a heartbreaking twist’ RED
‘You won’t be able to put it down’ HELLO
‘Brilliant’ THE SUN
The Sunday Times and New York Times global best seller, an astonishing new crime thriller debut novel from the biggest literary fiction voice of 2021
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Top reviews from Australia
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The content is admittedly tough. A Christian couple produce seven children and as time goes on their increasingly paranoid father becomes more and more controlling and cruel. They live in increasing squalor, starved, denied school and eventually chained to their beds. Abigail Dean did a lot of true crime research and the scenario has a lot in common with the Turpin family. Readers have mentioned sexual abuse but apart from one ambiguous incident there’s no evidence of that. It’s all about a power trip by a fanatical man who’s increasingly losing it.
The story does slip-slide between the present and the past and you do have to be on the ball. When the imprisoned mother dies, lawyer daughter Lex is made executor. She travels from her base in New York back home to the UK. The will leaves the house (of horrors) and twenty thousand pounds to the kids. Lex wants to convince the others to turn the place into a multi use community asset. Dean shows great skill in the pacing of her flashbacks, building a picture of a family at first just a little weird and eventually horrifying and of the medical, psychological and legal fallout after the escape. Of course there is also the story of their adoptions, making it through normal school and uni, finding careers, lovers etc. They are very different people and they don’t always get along as their coping mechanisms clash. Their birth order affects their outcomes a lot. Gabriel fares the worst, with sight and possibly dyslexia problems not being picked up and adoptive parents who want to milk him for the publicity as opposed to those who want to disappear from the public eye.
Lex herself is an unsympathetic character for some readers, but... consider the trauma she’s been through and the struggle to be anything like “normal”. What would such an experience do to you? Some people might be put off that - though it’s not dwelt on awfully much - she asks to be hurt during sex. This reminds me of a book by an eminent British Freudian who found in a study on sexual fantasies that in ALL cases, such fantasies derived from earlier trauma: something scary or humiliating. Our minds work in mysterious ways.
Clearly, the book doesn’t aim to be a mystery or a thriller. What it is, is a brilliant psychological study of damaged survival in extraordinary circumstances. The fascination lies in how each person does this, and Dean accomplishes that with a great deal of insight and elan. The ending - yes - is ambiguous and somewhat unsatisfying. By then we’ve been shown that Lex’s recovery is not as certain or complete as she’s led us to believe and the ending reinforces this idea. It’s a terrific book and no surprise that the screen rights have been bought (please god don’t let them turn it into an American story like Girl on a Train). The only thing that worried me was my voyeuristic interest in what is a terrible story. All power to Abigail Dean though. With this book out, a second in the pipeline plus a career as a Google lawyer she must have a very busy, energetic brain.
Edit: I have to add that I kept thinking the story was real and if I googled it I’d find their names and faces, photographs and articles etc mentioned in the story. Everything she wrote was just so profoundly REAL and that, I suppose, is what made it such a powerful read.
For anyone who is worried about this topic, there was no sexual abuse.
Top reviews from other countries
There are times when you can appreciate the quality of someone's writing, but without really enjoying the book. This was one of those occasions.
I had heard such good things about this novel and I was really looking forward to reading it. It is generally well written, with some evocative use of language, but, after an encouraging opening, the story never really drew me in and made me engage with the characters. The premise was appealing and there was plenty of potential for heart wrenching, emotional feeling to be evoked. However, I was never quite drawn to that point and found it all a bit flat.
Stylistically, the narrative was also awkward to follow at times and I found myself having to re-read sections to ensure that I had picked things up correctly. This was mostly due to frequent switches of time frame in the narrative, without any clear indication of the change. This may be a case of the author employing a literary device to try to reflect the state of Lex's mind, but, if that was the intention, I am not convinced that it achieved its aim.
This seems to be marketed as a mystery thriller, but I would view more as a psychological character study into coping with and surviving a major trauma. In this respect, the writer addresses some serious issues in a candid and sometimes interesting way, but I can't help feeling that the most fascinating elements had already been covered in the first quarter of the book and the remainder of the story largely retreads the same ground.
Some other early reviewers have scored this highly, so perhaps they have managed to derive something from this that just eluded me.
Girl A is a gripping and excellently written novel that’s dark and edgy as you become absorbed in it from the first page. Lex Gracie is the perfect narrator, as she recounts her and her sibling’s childhood, in the house of horrors they grew up in with their parents.
It’s how they’ve all found their own ways to deal with what happened to them. And Lex finding the courage to confront their horrific past and learn the true power of forgiveness and moving on.
Girl A is a novel I read in one entire sitting. I didn’t stop until I had finished it. It’s a story that radiates power. It will change you. it’s heart-wrenching at times, the twist in it and the ending are heartbreaking but feel oddly right and satisfying. It’s truly the most powerful and unforgettable debut novel from an author we have ever read.
Abigail Dean has written a story that will be talked about for generations to come. It’s a book you will never forget reading.
It’s been marketed and reviewed in places as ‘dark and disturbing’ and yes, there are some parts that are difficult to read and imagine. But the abuse the characters suffered as children is implied rather than graphically detailed. There are also parts of the book that have genuine humour in them, and - by the end - the whole thing feels actually much more inspiring and life-affirming than negative.
I also have to say that there is a fantastic twist. Perhaps some people might see it coming but my jaw genuinely dropped. It was brilliant and really turned the book on its head for me.
All in all, this is a really accomplished debut novel and one that will stay with me. I’d highly recommend it to other people - in fact, I already have and my friends have echoed my thoughts too so far!
Lex is a someone I won't forget in a long while. I actually cannot wait for more from Abigail Dean. A tour de force in A world faced with mediocrity at every turn.