Girl in the Walls
Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I wanted to find out what it was about. A girl who lives in walls, is it a ghost story, a parable, a horror story? The only way to find out for sure wast to read it.
Review copy or purchase
Thanks to the author, publishers 4th Estate Books and online book club Pigeonhole for access to read this for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
Elise is about 11 years old when her parents are killed in a tragic car accident around Christmas time. They’ve recently moved house away from the place Elise called home, so when she no longer has them to ground her she returns to where she knew them best, running away from a foster home and moving back in to the house she lived in. The only problem is that there’s a new family living there – Mr and Mrs Mason, and their teenage sons Eddie and Marshall. So, Elise hides.
A modern fairytale, a high tension thriller, and an ode to the lost all rolled into one. Girl in the Walls is an all enveloping world created by AJ Gnuse in a truly brilliant debut novel.
Although she lives in the same house, Elise lives a parallel life to the current house owners, the Masons. Using her knowledge of the house, which sounds like something out of the 1980s comedy The Money Pit in its endless need for work, Elise is able to shimmy through the gaps in the wall, sleep under the boards in the attic, and uses the sounds of a bird sound themed antique clock to mark the time she spends in the rest of the house when the Masons are out at work and school.
There’s a sense even at this early stage that Eddie Mason is aware of Elise’s presence, or may be aware of her presence at any rate. However, this cannot go on forever and as Elise gradually begins to interact with the world, through the casual presence of a neighbourhood boy who roams the area in the day and sneaks into people’s houses, she risks alerting the Masons to her presence. More threateningly others in the world begin to take an interest, people who have their own reasons to believe that there’s someone living in the walls, and is willing to go to any lengths to prove that there’s something there.
One of the joys of this story was the sense of possibility. At every stage the plot could have twisted in a number of different directions, and I was compelled to keep reading to find out which way it would go.
The author merges genres and levels of tensions in an extremely skilled way. It starts out quite slowly focussing on Elise and her observations as she hides from the world. There are moments of fun as Eddie starts to sense Elise, and she flirts with the idea of him seeing her. The book also reflects on Norse mythology as Elise borrows one of Eddie’s books on the subject and at times of high pressure turns to Odin for advice. And, there are section of high drama when the house Elise has returned to for protection and security begins to feel claustrophobic as she is literally hunted through the walls.
I simply loved this book, and would highly recommend.