The Girl Before was my bookclub’s latest book read and I have to say I was not a fan. Everyone else seemed to like it, but I thought this book was terribly boring.
Clara’s life is devastated in an instant – the police knock down her door and invade her house, arrest her husband Glen, and take her children. Clara is sent to a women’s institution where she is questioned by the police. Despite the continued interrogations, Clara refuses to tell the police about her former life before the police raided her home, her husband Glen and their family, or her in-laws.
The book goes back and forth between the past and present – Then and Now. ‘Then’ is Clara’s life growing up and meeting and marrying Glen. ‘Now’ covers the present and the time that Clara is in the women’s institution. Clara’s past is slowly untangled as we learn about her life growing up with Mama and Papa G. She doesn’t understand why Glen has been arrested and why the police keep asking her all these questions.
There are 2 main reasons why I didn’t care for this book:
1. The book goes back and forth between Then and Now. What I found annoying was that each Then/Now part is only about 2-3 pages before it switches back. It was a bit jarring, like when you watch a movie and the scene keeps changing to a completely new scene after only 1 or 2 minutes. I found myself reading and thinking I’m in the past, I’m in the past, nope now I’m in the present, in the present, and now I’m back in the past. I recognize that telling a story in the past and present is a good technique that authors use, but here it was annoying and I just wish the author had made the scenes longer as I kept getting pulled out of the book.
2. Nothing happens. A huge part of the Now section in the book involves the police interrogating Clara about Glen and his family. Predictably, Clara stays quiet and doesn’t answer any of their questions. The problem is that this same scenario is repeated for over half the book. I was reading this on my Kindle I got to over 50%, probably more like 65%, before Clara finally did something and started answering the police’s questions. It was just the same, repetitive, boring scenes over and over. The rest of the book is just Clara telling the police what they want to know and getting them information. Seriously, over half the book is the police trying to get Clara to cooperate with them and her saying no.
I didn’t feel there was a lot of suspense in this book because I figured out what was happening within the first few pages; there was no real reveal for me. I thought Clara had the capability to be an interesting character but she was too frustratingly naïve, even when the truth about Glen was right in front of her.
On a side note, I looked this book up in Goodreads to add to my books and there are tons of books that begin with “the girl before”. What’s the deal? What are they all before of?