Harper Collins January 2021
‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped.
When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.
This book generated a lot of hype when published earlier this year and while I had an awareness of what it was about it was still not what I expected.
The book is broken down into 7 chapters each broadly detailing a child from the ‘house of horrors’ beginning with Lex; Girl A who returns to her past when her mother dies in prison. All the children were adopted post discovery and have lived largely seperate lives since then, with some contact determined by age and individual circumstance.
This is Lex’s story so each child’s story is told in relation to her in a then and now format in the first person voice of Lex. Set in a current time frame, Lex has been appointed executer of her mother’s will and it is due to this that she has returned and is in contact with her siblings. The details of what the children experienced was vague and often alluded to and I liked this aspect of the story because the degree and trauma of the abuse was clear without being gratuitous. The chapters were long but again I this was a strong way of presenting the story as it recognised the individual experience, response and effect of the abuse suffered. Within each chapter the story moves to a then format, back childhood, back to the, ‘house of horrors’. The timing in the book was not always obvious and several times I realised the past was being detailed and I had to reread the previous couple of lines to reorientate myself. This was a little odd but I think represented the fluidity of time and I suspect was deliberate.
Personally I thought this book addressed a dark subject matter excellently. I found it to be a compelling read that comprehensively explored the trauma, support and recovery of growing up in an intensely abusive and damaged environment. We occasionally read about cases such as these and while this book was a work of fiction, I think it does offer a degree of insight into what happens next.
This won’t be for everyone and the subject matter is clear in the blurb, however if this is something that interests you I would recommend a read. Girl A is an exceptionally strong debut, brave and sympathetic writing around a horrifying and shocking subject.
About the Author
Abigail Dean was born in Manchester and grew up in the Peak District. She graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in English. Formerly a Waterstones bookseller, she spent five years as a lawyer in London and took summer 2018 off to work on her debut novel, Girl A, ahead of her thirtieth birthday. She now works as a lawyer for Google and is currently writing her second novel.
Girl A has been translated into 27 languages, and television / film rights have been sold to Sony.