The Family Upstairs – They Could Be Deadly… or Confusing

“‘In a nutshell? Strange people move in with wealthy family. Strange things happen and everyone dies, apart from some teenage children who are never heard of again. And, of course, the baby. Serenity.’”

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell

My Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In Summary of The Family Upstairs

Libby Jones makes an important discovery about her identity on her 25th birthday; she receives a letter revealing the names of her birth parents and her inheritance of an abandoned mansion along the Thames River in Chelsea. However, this revelation does not include any knowledge of her siblings and the truly dark past of what occurred in this mansion.

This family drama / thriller / mystery combination takes readers on a journey through multiple character perspectives and between the past and present to tell a story of a family that welcomed a cultish lifestyle into their home; from this, the adults could never escape. These are the secrets that Libby must learn of, and her siblings must mentally and emotionally relive, to bring the truth of her parents’ death to light.

Warning: Domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, rape, incest, and other disturbing scenes

Frequent twists in the plot to keep you guessingToo many perspectives and narrative voices that are not labelled as they change
Interesting premise about a cultChanging between time periods further complicates how the plot is read
Takes on too many characters and issues in one story, so it’s difficult to follow and to wrap up

“And all the time the truth jangled at her nerves, squeezed at her stomach muscles, played drums on her heart, taunted her in her dreams, sickened her when she awoke, and kept her from sleeping when she closed her eyes at night.”

The Review

I’m going to be honest upfront – it was challenging to keep up with the multiple perspectives while also moving around between the past and present. There are a total of 69 short chapters, so I felt like I was bouncing around frequently and sometimes this was confusing. I am an English literature teacher, so this is not normally difficult for me (I usually know what I’m doing!), but reading this book was arduous at times due to the choppy pacing. Additionally, this thriller takes it time to speed up to the juicy stuff thriller fans want. Give me the creepy, cringey, and crazy now!

So, if you like a variety of character perspectives and a weaving plot, then this one’s for you!

What disappointed me most was that I didn’t feel immersed into the cult experience. You guys know I’m here for some cultish craziness! But I wasn’t quite satisfied.

*Sigh*  This is what I get for morbid curiosity…. A high threshold! 

Despite the challenges I mentioned, The Family Upstairs did keep me reading and wanting to know more about the family. Overall, I do think the characters are interesting, but there is one character in particular that I feel suddenly shifts about halfway through and it feels quite sudden. I don’t want to give away who it is, but Jewell either did this on purpose or the characterization from the first half to the second doesn’t quite transition smoothly. Unless that’s how sociopathic behavior suddenly reveals itself?

The Family Upstairs would have been equally – if not more – effective if there was only Henry’s narrative perspective to keep track of, in my opinion. I didn’t feel that the others added too much that we couldn’t have discovered in other ways.

If you like twisty, dark, complex thrillers, this one is for you. If you don’t like keeping track of too many paths and details at once, then I would choose a different thriller by Lisa Jewell. If anything, this book is worth checking out from the library to give it a try.

The Family Upstairs Book Information

  • Published: 2019
  • ISBN:  1501190105
  • Format: E-Book
  • Length: Approx. 350 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – Lisa Jewell


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