December 5, 2009

The Girl Next Door (1989)

Once in awhile I read a book, or watch a movie, that redefines my concept of evil. Or, more precisely the depths of darkness that people can sink into at the expense of others. The Girl Next Door is one such book, it lulls you into its false sense of serenity only to ambush you with such a violent and heartbreaking story that you will be left reeling from the impact it leaves on you.

The story is told in from the perspective of David, a middle-aged man working on Wall Street, that relates the events of the summer of 1958 when he was a 12 year old boy.

It starts off innocently enough with David enjoying his summer as any young boy would; messing about with his friends, going to the fair and meeting a girl named Meg. She is slightly older than him and has ended up moving in, along with her younger sister Susan, with her Aunt Ruth after a terrible accident claimed the lives of their parents. Initially David is secretly quite happy about this; he is fascinated by her and looks forward to seeing her again. Unfortunately for Meg though moving in with her Aunt will prove to be a horrific experience.

At first Ruth just makes Meg do all the household chores, but before long the personal insults start and when Ruth learns of a game that the kids, including her own sons play she takes things to a whole new level of cruelty. Both sisters are made to suffer, and over the following weeks of that summer no one will be the same again.

The Girl Next Door is a quite incredible book. The further you read into it the nastier it gets, yet I could not stop reading, I just had to know what happened. The fact that I was repulsed by what was happening on the pages in front of was irrelevent, I just couldn’t stop. Admittedly I had to take a breather now and again, but not for long as such was the lure of the book. Reading it from David’s point of view only added to the horrors as they unfolded. Here is this 12 year old witnessing, yet not being able to end, the attrocious acts that are commited in the basement of his neighbours house. As a reader I felt I should be looking away, I shouldn’t be down there watching, as if I was a party to the crimes commited. Yet Ketchum hooks you in with his writing and never lets you go until the bitter end.

The Girl Next Door is a truly masterful horror novel; quite possibly one of the best I have ever read. Aside from the incredibly disturbing elements contained within it is a wonderfully written book that manages to make you wrestle with your emotions throughout. Quite why I waited so long to read it is quite beyond me.

Simply put this book is incredible and I thoroughly recommend it. Disturbing, powerful and heartbreaking; read it as soon as you can.

Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jude Felton

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