The People at Number 9 is a razor-sharp, entertaining story looking at adult friendships, in this case with the neighbours. Sara is overjoyed when she spots a couple with children of a similar age to her own moving into the house next door. At first on a practical level, the house has been a bit neglected and could do with sprucing up but later, when she is chatting with Carol from down the road, she gets a closer look at her arty new neighbour, Lou, and sees something in her that she feels is missing from her life.
This is not, as the title and cover might suggest a domestic thriller, rather it takes a close look at how other people change the way we see ourselves, and in turn perhaps how others see us. Sara is impressed and overawed when she finds out Lou is a film producer and her husband, the handsome Gav, is an artist and instead of joining her old friend and neighbour Carol in sneering at the new neighbour’s bohemian lifestyle, she embraces the lack of convention, or would, if she could just lose some of those middle-class values.
The early chapters narrated by Sara show us how Lou weaves her spell on Sara in particular as she invites confidence, listens with interest and reveals nuggets about the life they have left behind in rural Spain. It is only on reflection that Sara realises that she knows very little about the pair and really she’s too dazzled to really look.
For a long while Sara has longed to do more with her talents than work as a copy writer at an advertising agency and as she becomes more friendly with Lou, her neighbour’s praise encourages her to write a book instead. Meanwhile her steady husband Neil who has worked hard to climb the heady heights of the local housing association is pulled along in Sara’s wake and soon all the couple’s social life is spent with the neighbours, previous friends simply not feeling bright and sparkly enough against this pair.
With Gav and Lou’s children attending the same school the children are also forced together for longer than they would naturally choose to be, especially as Lou is often busy doing very important arty things with very important people, whose names she litters her conversations with so that the less well-connected Sara is unsure whether she should have heard of them. The upshot is that Sara is only too pleased to be able to be the safe pair of hands who entertain the children for Lou, especially as she becomes more and more intrigued by Gav. And so the seeds are set, ready to transform the lives of Sara and Neil into something that couldn’t have been predicted before they made friends with the neighbours!
Having read some early reviews I was prepared for a different kind of read and Felicity Everett really did deliver on a tale of a modern middle-class life and I had the feeling all the way through that there were going to be tears before bedtime, but whose and how dramatic I could only sit back and wait to find out.
I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of The People at Number 9 from the publishers HQ and this unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author for a thoroughly entertaining read.