Author: Juliet Ashton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 20th April 2017
A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?
The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.
Child Psychologist Sarah lives in the top floor flat. Sarah is in the process of re-decorating her flat with the intention of selling up and moving on. Suffering a crisis of confidence at work and recovering from a recent divorce, Sarah is looking for a new start, away from the memories of her unfaithful ex, Leo.
The residents are virtual strangers who keep themselves to themselves and have little interest in their neighbours. With the arrival of both a friendly new couple and the summer sun, the neighbours begin to come together and Number 24 gradually comes to life.
The story is told from Sarah’s viewpoint and she makes for a real and likeable protagonist. I felt her discontent and her sense of loss, not just Leo’s departure but her loss of focus in life, and I wanted to see her confidence restored.
The tale is character driven. Ashton has skilfully produced a realistic and relatable cast. The most surprising character is the elderly and cranky Mavis. It is her character that develops the most over the course of the story. I also enjoyed learning more about Leo. My views towards him changed numerous times throughout the story. Mostly, I felt a deep dislike for his self-indulgent and immature ways. However, at times, I felt almost an iota of sympathy for a man who may never find happiness due to his own flaws and failings.
My favourite characters, however, are the Number 24 pets – Peck the foul-mouthed parrot and Mikey the adorable hedgehog.
The tale is set almost entirely in one location, at Number 24. In this way, the house almost takes on a character of its own – it really is a case of ‘if the walls could talk’.
The story is well-executed, proving to be a thoughtful and enjoyable read. It is interesting to consider how relationships of all kinds develop and what impact we can have on other peoples’ lives, even people that we may not be very close to, such as our neighbours.
I very much enjoyed The Woman at Number 24. It is a well-written, warm and genuine story of community, forgiveness and friendships. A thought-provoking and absorbing tale that I would recommend to lovers of women’s fiction.
Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. She is married and has one daughter. Find out more at www.berniestrachan.com