Reviewed by Dolores Maund
Girl A is told from the perspective of the central character, Alexandra, a young and successful lawyer who works in New York but has returned to the UK because of the death of her mother. As the executor of her mother’s will Alexandra is required to contact her siblings which, combined with her mother’s death, stimulates disturbing memories of their family life in which the children were subjected to appalling violence and cruel privation by their pathologically warped parents. Stories of this nature hold a particular fascination for a variety of reasons, one being that it is beyond the imaginings of most people to begin to comprehend the behaviour of such parents. Also, in this novel, the means by which the children endure such circumstances and then the type of adults they grow to be makes for an engrossing meditation on the nature of the human condition – a topic ever ripe for endless speculation.
While all of the characters in Girl A are finely etched and fully realised several of them are bound to leave a permanent imprint on the inner landscape of the reader, particularly the unforgettable Alexandra. Her acute observational powers in relation to her fellow human beings along with her exceptional integrity and courage in the way in which she faces her own psychological disfigurement and that of her siblings make for an admirable and endearing character. Furthermore, her character is made more convincing by her voice which is typical of a young adult shaped by the digital era and which effectively conjures the zeitgeist. The gradual unfolding of the story and development of the characters in Girl A make for utterly compelling reading. I could not put the book down and since finishing have continued to mull over this memorable novel.
In the hands of a lesser writer the subject matter which Abigail Dean has chosen to deal with in Girl A could indeed make for grim reading. Instead, the book is, among other things, a testament to the power of the human spirit. While this novel is not likely to appeal to the Pollyannas of this world or those who wish to skate over the surface of life it is Abigail Dean’s superb illumination of complex social and psychological phenomena which makes her novel a tour de force. Her intelligent perspective on aspects of the human condition can only serve to enrich and expand the imagination of the reader. I am sure readers will eagerly await Abigail Dean’s next book as I most certainly do.
‘Sensational. Gripping, haunting, and beautifully written' RICHARD OSMAN
‘Haunting, powerful, with a pitch-perfect ending' THE NEW YORK TIMES
‘The biggest mystery thriller since Gone Girl' ELLE
‘Incendiary, beautifully written debut' GUARDIAN
‘Psychologically astute, adroitly organised, written with flair' THE SUNDAY TIMES
‘An astonishing achievement.' JESSIE BURTON
‘Gripping, beautifully written perfection.' SOPHIE HANNAH
‘A masterpiece.' LOUISE O'NEILL
‘Fantastic.' PAULA HAWKINS