The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse - book review

Dark secrets from the past cast their shadow over a suburban Sixties family in a compelling and tension-packed novel from one of the nation's best-loved authors.
The House Across the Street by Lesley PearseThe House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse
The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

For twenty-five years, Lesley Pearse has been delighting her fans with gripping and emotionally powerful novels featuring tales of courage and adversity, and giving a voice to women from every walk of life, and people damaged by their childhood experiences.

Over 10 million of Pearse’s books have sold worldwide, earning her a reputation as a master storyteller, and this new exploration of family, friendship and disturbing domestic issues is an enthralling page-turner, brimming with the author’s immaculate research, empathy and heartfelt passion.

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It’s 1964 and twenty-three-year-old Katy Speed has always been fascinated by the house across the street … it’s the home of glamorous divorcee Gloria Reynolds, owner of a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex.

Katy – who longs to escape the unhappy atmosphere created by her moody, caustic mother Hilda – has visited the shop on several occasions and been encouraged to escape to London where, says Gloria, ‘it’s all happening.’

But Gloria has a secret… a mysterious woman arrives in a black car most Saturdays while Gloria is at work. Sometimes she brings women to the house, and other times the women come with children. Hilda disapproves of Gloria but Katy likes her and wonders where these mysterious visitors have come from, and what they want. Surely Gloria can’t have sinister reasons for secretly bringing strangers into the heart of their community?

A few months later, just as Katy is on the verge of taking up an exciting new job in London, the house across the road burns down and the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found in the wreckage.

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Katy is sure the unexplained strangers must be responsible…until her beloved and caring father Albert is arrested and charged with murder after fire-setting materials are found in his garden shed. Katy is still convinced the police have arrested the wrong person, but can she uncover the truth before it's too late?

The House Across the Street turns the spotlight on some of the harsher truths of the age known as the Swinging Sixties, exposing the prejudices and restrictions that still faced women in both their domestic and professional lives.

Rich in authentic period detail and with a beautifully portrayed cast of characters, Pearse peeps behind the curtains of suburbia to reveal some painful home truths, and the poisonous legacy of secrets that have festered for decades.

Mystery, murder, family loyalties and romance all play leading roles as we share one young woman’s courage, resilience and doggedly determined journey to prove her father’s innocence and uncover revelations that will change her life forever.

A heartbreaking and intensely human story that twists, turns and grips from first page to last…

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £20)