Our book club read The Couple Next Door only a few months ago, so I clearly remember how I felt about it.
Author: Shari Lapena
Other works: Things Go Flying, Happiness Economics
Recommended by: Book Club, and several people I heard discussing it on the radio.
Main characters: Anne and Marco Conti, and their kidnapped baby daughter Cora. And some iffy neighbours and in-laws. And a world-weary detective.
Opinions: The book club was divided – some found it quite engaging and exciting, and some found it annoying. I have to admit, I am one of the latter. I wanted to like it; after all, the author is a Canadian English teacher, yay! Good on her for writing a very successful book. Listening to other reviews, people are like, “It’s full of twists! I couldn’t put it down! Page-turner from start to finish!” I, on the other hand, was like, “It’s full of gimmicks! I couldn’t relate to any of the characters! Cringeable writing from start to finish!” I didn’t hate it – it wasn’t boring – I finished it with no problem. I did want to know what happened. But honestly, if you’re planning, as an author, to wrench readers’ heartstrings by featuring a missing infant, you need to back that up with grounded plot lines and realistic parents we can care about. (In my opinion.) In this case, it felt like plot-twist experimentation, as in, “Let’s see if they’ll swallow THIS one!” Especially at the end.
A quotation I liked: Sorry… nothing that moved me. The writing was part of my problem with the book in general – I couldn’t make myself stop noticing the awkwardness of a third-person narrative in the present tense.
What sticks with me: That awful idea of coming in to see your baby – and her being gone.
Recommended to: Readers who love a surprising, suspenseful plot and don’t mind so much about underdeveloped characters.
To sum up: I’m not a fan of The Couple Next Door, but you might be!