I love reading and always try to have a book on the go. This week I have been reading The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett.
It's a story that gripped me right from the start so that made it an easy read. I actually finished it in the middle of the night because I woke up about 2am and couldn't get to sleep so decided to finish where I had left off and I didn't go back to sleep until I had finished it! Now I think that's a sign of a good book!
It's essentially a satire of how life can be in the suburbs, and given that this is a life I know all too well I found it really interesting and relevant. The story is told from the point of view of Sara, a happily married woman, with 2 children living the perfect but slightly boring and unfulfilling life in the suburbs. When a new family, Lou and Gav and their four children move next door they seem different and glamorous and immediately alluring to Sara. Lou and Gav are creatives - Gav is an artist and Lou is a film producer and when Sara decides to befriend them it takes her on a long journey of jealousy and ultimately betrayal.
We all have our moments when we are jealous of our friends and neighbours. We want what they have so much that we forget that what we already have ourselves is actually quite amazing as it is. Sara finds herself seduced by Gav and Lou, envious of their style, their house, their creative passions and their parenting style. She has a crush on both of them in many ways. She wants to be stylish and alluring like Lou and she admires Gavin's parenting and camaraderie on the school run and enjoys their little flirtations a bit too much.
She is thrilled when they return the compliment by accepting her as friends and she is initially inspired to make changes to her life that she thinks will benefit herself and her family. However, as time wears on Lou and Gav seem to be taking advantage more than they should and Sara ultimately finds herself losing a lot more than she has gained in this one friendship.
I didn't feel that I really identified with any of the characters or even admired any of them but I certainly recognised the issues that this book raises. I really feel for Sara, who faces many of the pressures and struggles that all modern mothers face. She is trying to juggle a job around looking after her children, whilst in search of something more than a 'job'. She would like a career she is passionate about, but it's difficult to put yourself out there to face the likely rejection. Sara often puts herself down and doesn't have belief in her abilities. She's also desperately seeking that connection with someone, a lasting friendship. At the start of the novel she is friendly with several people but you sense that she really longs for that 'close friendship' that she will find with Lou.
I think as modern mothers we are continually comparing ourselves to others, wondering if we could do better. Sara's worries about the school that her children go to will echo with mothers all across the country, we can all relate because we all worry that our children are getting the best education that they can. We see though that Sara can be quite critical of others too and quick to drop old relationships for new. Sara's focus on changing their lives actually in the end damages her family, and that makes me feel really sorry for her. She was too blinded with her fascination with her new friends that she failed to see the bigger picture.
Suburbia is full of people just like the characters in this book, continually looking outwards and trying to keep up with or be better than others. I find it mentally exhausting and try not to be like it myself, but it's hard when it almost seems to be a way of life in the modern world. This book definitely touches upon these issues and I'll be recommending it to all of my friends because it really touched a nerve with me as it is completely socially relevant. A very interesting read!
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