The Girl On The Landing

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The Girl on the Landing By Paul Torday, book reviewYou think you know someone – but you never really do…

Michael and Elizabeth have been married for ten years. Elizabeth has accepted her life with her ‘boring’ but wealthy husband. She kept her job to keep her sanity it would seem and also to retain a sense of normality outside of her husband’s world of visiting Beinn Caorrun, the gloomy house in the Scottish glens near Perth in Scotland which he inherited when his parents died. Michael’s only other interest is his membership of Groucher’s, a club for Gentlemen with its old fashioned rules and regulations. Life with Michael is dull but safe and Elizabeth seems to have settled for that, accompanying Michael on the odd weekend away with fellow golf-playing members of Grouchers and also on trips to Beinn Caorrun, although Elizabeth does not like to visit the old house with its dark rooms and cold bedroom which Michael seems to prefer.

However, Elizabeth suddenly starts to notice a change in Michael. Whilst they are staying in Ireland for a weekend with one of Michael’s friends, he becomes intrigued by a painting on the landing, in particular, the girl in the painting. Michael mentions it to his hosts and is surprised when they tell him there is no girl in the painting. Indeed when Michael later returns to the landing to look at the picture again, the girl he thought he saw has gone.

Following on from this, Elizabeth notices Michael is slowly starting to change from the quiet, dull man she has spent the last ten years with, into a more outspoken and opinionated, but most of all loving and fun to be with husband. Elizabeth finds herself falling in love with her husband as they discover the fun and intimacy together that has been suppressed all these years. But whilst she is enjoying ‘finding’ her husband at last, Elizabeth is puzzled as to who or what is changing Michael.

After making a couple of discoveries about things it seems Michael has kept hidden from Elizabeth, she slowly begins to realise that their fragile happiness is threatened by secrets from Michael’s past. Elizabeth finds herself becoming fearful for both herself and Michael, as she probes deeper into his past which is as dark as the old house at Beinn Caorrun.

The Girl On The Landing‘ is the first book I have read by author Paul Torday. Described as a tense thriller, I was intrigued by the storyline, which although starts off pretty mundane, slowly becomes darker and more disturbing with every chapter. What I initially thought was going to be an average read, as it wasn’t holding my interest as well as I had hoped, turned out to be a strangely gripping thriller which is so well written it compels you to keep turning the pages.

As you begin to read this book, you get the feeling it is set a number of years ago. The descriptions of Beinn Caorrun, the people Michael mixes with and his gentlemen’s club:Grouchers, all give the impression that this is not a modern day story. However, the fact they have mobile phones for example, shows this is not the case at all. I also kept forgetting that Michael and Elizabeth are a couple in their thirties as you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe this is a couple in their fifties or maybe even sixties.

I really thought I was not going to enjoy the book, but as Michael began to change, my interest in the book began to improve. Both Michael and Elizabeth seem to become more their real age as the changes in Michael change their life. I found myself drawn into the story, wondering exactly who Michael really was, what secrets were lying hidden in his past and how they were going to be revealed, as I felt it was inevitable that his past was going to return to haunt him.

Torday builds up the tension really well throughout the book, turning what I thought was going to be a mundane story into a dark, chilling one as the suspense builds. Although I did not care much for the character of Elizabeth at first, as I questioned why she married Michael in the first place and came to the conclusion it was for stability and security rather than love, I found myself warming to her as she falls in love with her husband, only to begin to feel that despite her happiness, something is terribly wrong with her husband. Despite my initial reservations, I began to care about her character and as the situation intensifies, I sympathised with her plight as she felt torn and unsure what to do for the best. Although she finds herself in a dangerous situation, she loves her husband and does not want to betray him or his trust in her.

The way in which Torday changes the character of Michael makes for really interesting reading. It was believable and intriguing and I did not know how far Torday was going to go with this character. In fact, I wondered if Torday actually knew this himself when he began to write the book. Maybe this is why the ending felt slightly rushed, as if the author realised he had better start tying up the ends. Having said that, I did feel there were a couple of things left unanswered but it didn’t matter much, nor did it affect the eventual outcome which I did not predict.

Overall, The Girl On The Landing is a well written tale and worthy of its ‘tense thriller’ tag. It is definitely worth sticking with, if like me, you are not drawn into the book right away. I enjoyed the writing and it has left me keen to read more of Paul Torday’s work.

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Girl On the Landing, The
by Paul Torday

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