Published: January 2021
Author: Abigail Dean
Narrators: Holliday Grainger
Published by: HarperCollins
Length: 336 pages / 11 hrs 12 minutes
Reading dates: 28 March-6 April 2023
‘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.
Continuing my series of “books I bought as soon as they came out and have sat on my shelf for the last couple of years”, I recently listened to the audio book of Girl A by Abigail Dean which I borrowed through my local library. I remember this being everywhere when it first came out and I got a copy, excited by the hype and I’m glad I finally listened to it as I loved it!
Girl A tells the story of Lex (also known as Girl A) who grew up in what later became known as the House of Horrors with her siblings Ethan, Delilah, Gabriel, Evie, Daniel and Noah. To begin with they live a relatively normal life with their parents, albeit one of poverty, where there wasn’t money for clothes or food. Their dad especially is religious and has a dream of opening his own church, a plan which ultimately fails. As Lex reaches her teenage years his behaviour becomes more extreme – first he withdraws the children from school choosing to teach them himself, then he starts restricting baths and food, before keeping them chained to their beds.
Lex is the one who manages to escape, alerts the authorities and the children are rescued and each given treatment for both their physical and mental problems. The children are all adopted by different families and handle their trauma in different ways.
As the book begins their mother has just died in prison and Lex is left to deal with their inheritance – the house they grew up in. Telling the story in both the present day and looking to the past, the narrative gradually explains the horror the children went through and the way they have all dealt with it in different ways throughout their adult lives – with forgiveness, with addiction and with hate. The relationship between the grown up children is also interesting – I would have expected their experience to bond the siblings but there is tension between them.
An addictive book, I often would walk a bit further with the dog so I could listen some more or else keep listening when I got home for as long as I could. The story is horrifying and shocking and although you know from the first few pages that Lex and her siblings escaped, it still manages to weave suspense in it’s pages. I’m excited to see Dean has a new book due out in March next year and I can’t wait to read it.
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.
Girl A was published in hardback in January 2021 and became an instant Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, also topping the charts in Ireland and Australia. It reached #1 in the UK Kindle charts. The novel has been acquired in 35 territories, and television/film rights have sold to Sony. Johan Renck, director of Chernobyl, is attached to work on the television adaptation of Girl A.
Abigail works as a lawyer for Google, and is currently writing her second novel, The Conspiracies. She has always loved reading, writing, and talking about books.
It’s still on my shelf too but after reading your review I can’t wait to read my copy! So happy to hear you enjoyed it!
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Glad I’m not the only one! Thanks Inge
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