Title: The Girl Before You
Author: Nicola Rayner
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
A successful lawyer, Alice Reynolds is happily married to George, her college boyfriend, who was formerly in politics and is now a TV presenter.
Naomi Walker’s life was affected by the tragedy of losing her sister, Ruth Walker, in a case of accidental drowning. Her body was never recovered, and the family has yet to receive closure. Now Naomi is expecting a baby with her partner, Carla.
On a train journey, Alice sees a girl who reminds her of Ruth, a girl who died while she was in college. A girl who had been George's girlfriend before her. And then she remembers that things had been uneasy between Ruth and George, but she had no idea why. When Alice, who defends victims of domestic violence in divorce suits, becomes pregnant, she feels compelled to learn more about what happened to Ruth.
Meanwhile, there is someone who is pushing for the truth to come out. Someone who sends Naomi Ruth’s stuffed doll. George is receiving postcards marked St Anthony with the words, St Anthony, St Anthony, give what I’ve lost back to me.
Alice wonders if her husband is as innocent of the crime as he claims or if he had something to do with it.
I liked the style of writing. It is very reminiscential, and it is through this that we become aware that Ruth began a sexual relationship with George, despite being warned about his bad reputation.
The book is written from the perspectives of three women who had a connection with Ruth. These women include Ruth’s younger sister, Naomi (1st person present tense POV), Alice, who had an affair with George, Ruth’s former boyfriend, and married him, and Kat, Ruth’s closest friend in college. Alice’s and Kat’s accounts are in the 3rd person; Alice’s account is a mix between then and now, while Kat’s account goes on from Oct 1999 to June 2001. The three viewpoints coalesce to tell us the truth about what happened to Ruth.
George is a very distasteful person, judging from the information we piece together about him.
Bit by bit, the truth was revealed, and we come to know the characters better. But there are just too many characters and too much random stuff that keeps happening, influencing and affecting the characters. It would have been better if a major chunk of the irrelevant stuff were cut down.
The pace was very slow, but luckily I was patient. The writing was lovely, very nuanced in places and that made me want to read on.
Life works like water, in currents, with things tugged away from us and other things returned.
A fear that felt like a trapdoor giving way beneath my feet.
There is a moment… when something stops being a source of pleasure and becomes a source of pain. It is so precise, so exact, it could be plotted on a graph.
Living. It all comes down to a series of choices and at the time you don’t even know ou are making them, or that they will stay with you forever, that you can never go back to the time before you made them.
The thing about hope… you have to manage it. Otherwise it takes over, like water. It might keep you afloat for a while, but eventually it’ll rush away like the tide, leaving you stranded.
The theme plays out through love and obsession and unhappy and broken hearts. Sex plays a big part. All the women, Ruth, Alice and Kat are sexually active, even willing. And yet all three of them are taken advantage of, and have their hearts broken. They suffer rejection, hurt and pain.
The subject is distressing. It all seems unconnected at first, but then the links become evident. I felt a sense of relief as things began to fall into place.
The overwhelming impression is of students wasting the most precious years of their lives in rampant drinking, substance abuse and sexual activity. How men have no trouble sleeping around, while their reputations glow brighter, but a woman is immediately painted a slut.
(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)