Rating: 4 / 5
Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs is the story of a family forged and broken when a charismatic man and his family move in and begin taking control of the household.
Special thanks to Atria Books for gifting me this book!
Libby has just turned 25, and she knew this letter was coming – the letter confirming that she now owns the mansion in London that her family, whom she has never met, has left to her. She knows of her family, of the rumors surrounding them and her birth – but she doesn’t know the half of it.
25 years prior, the family’s home and stable life are disrupted when their mother decides to welcome strangers into their home. These strangers, it turns out, do not have their best interests at heart. What little Libby knows about her family’s past ends with her mother and father’s suicide and her left alone as an infant, to be found by the police and adopted to a nice woman.
Unknown fates, rampant lies, and the whisperings of a sort of cult culminate into this fascinating domestic suspense.
Please take caution while reading The Family Upstairs if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Child abuse / pedophilia
- Animal cruelty
- Self-harm / suicide
- Death / dying
- Pregnancy / childbirth
The Family Upstairs is my first Lisa Jewell novel, but it surely won’t be my last. She’s so good at laying the foundation for deep-seeded deception, and doing so without skimping on telling a fascinating story. Even if this hadn’t been a thriller, I would have loved learning about this family and the “cult” they unwittingly invite into their home.
On that note, you may be really interested in this book because you’ve heard it’s about a cult. I tend to think that “cult” is a bit too strong of a word for what’s going on in this book. Without a doubt, the family and their circumstances are extremely interesting, but this is not a The Girls or Educated situation, where that is the bulk and focus of the story. This is not a critique for me, by the way – I found the entire story to be compelling, whether involving the unique living situation in the past or Libby’s attempt to find out the truth 25 years later.
Jewell writes from the perspectives of three characters – Libby and her two siblings, whom she has not known since infancy. They’ve all been waiting for her to turn 25 and inherit their family home, and each looks back on their time in the house with wildly different perspectives. Further, they’re all dealing with their own separate lives, which are particularly interesting in their own rights.
Jewell explores compelling themes of familial obligation, young adulthood, and helplessness alongside the main story of what really happened in the family home so many years ago. I absolutely enjoyed this domestic suspense – it is a quick, gripping read that will keep you guessing.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Family Upstairs. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!