The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

I have grown up with a love of all things retro and vintage; music, fashion, classic films set in the 50’s and 60’s and whilst I have a very limited history knowledge (something I want to address) I enjoy hearing stories about those time periods. My parents were born in the early 60’s and so I thought this book might help give me some context and insight to the stories they’ve told me about growing up through that time. So, not only did the blurb grab me by sounding so intriguing but I also established a personal motive to read this book and couldn’t wait to see what it was like!

The first thing that struck me when I started reading this book was Katy’s conflict between fitting in with stereotypes and her defiant determination to be anything but. I love a headstrong young female character and she sure delivered punch. I really enjoyed the typical 60’s moments; they completely transported me to the time and place with a great sense of realism. The main themes explored through the book are heart-breaking to the point where you don’t think you can feel any more sympathy or rage. The humanitarian effort sought out is commendable and heart-warming and a huge part of you wishes this book was based on true stories, provided there was always a happy ending.

The loyalty between Katy, her dad and the other characters she encounters produces such a strong sense of family and it is refreshing to read about such a formidable support network, albeit with it’s apparent outliers, but ultimately a thoroughly solid set of characters. I wonder if it is the historical aspect that has allowed for a more “working together” feel of the characters throughout – I have an opinion that “modern” thrillers can sometimes have too much competition and aggression between the characters and a constant grievance with authority can get a bit wearing. Katy is a strong character, with a clear aversion to following the grain, but she’s not arrogant or haughty. Cavalier, yes, but I can associate with that.

This book is not grizzly or gruesome, but it’s disturbing in it’s own way. The crimes are delivered to the pages “softly”, which does not take anything away from how truly awful they are, but just reflects the human nature of this book and it’s focus on people’s personalities. I did grip me because the occasional harshness was unexpected and caught you off-guard along with surprising revelations! Don’t be fooled, this book is not warm and cuddly, it is brutal but in it’s own dignified way. A delightful breath of fresh air to mix up your reads.

I did discuss this book with my parents as I read, to get a sense of how plausible they thought it was compared to what they remember of the time, and they were impressed with the accuracy. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I liked the pace, strong characters, realistic settings and in general the plot and story-line! It did strike a chord with me personally, but shouldn’t books do that? They should evoke a response from the reader and so I can recommend Lesley Pearse as an author who has done just that in a lovely, but nonetheless disturbing way; I had a few nights tossing and turning after I finished this one, I must admit.

I will also say that this book has a strong undercurrent of ‘Man vs Woman’, which might naturally appeal to more female readers than male, but it justly reflects what was going on in the 60’s. It was a hugely sexist and stereotypical time, and it all seems alien to me having been born in the 1990’s and growing up through times where discrimination is largely dissolved (I am aware it still goes on in many forms) so I feel exceptionally lucky that there were real people existing in the 60’s like those in this book, so that I have the life I do. So, to them, Thank You. – GJ

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