Those People, Louise Candlish
You have to admire an author's bravery in writing a book that's populated almost entirely by unlikeable people, forcing you to consider if the bad people are really that bad when the good people are really that passive aggressively awful and, for this reader anyway, why anyone would live in the suburbs ever. Okay so that last one is a very personal reaction but when Darren and Jodie move into the family friendly, terribly proper, "suburban dream world" of Lowland Way they aren't quite the right sort of people. For a start they come from a local estate, and they knock down garden walls loudly, repair cars and crowd the place up with second-hand wrecks, half-arse renovations, play loud music, drink, fight, party hard. All of which is obviously not good neighbourly behaviour but lordy there's a sneaking feeling of sympathy for their sod off attitude to the buttoned up, "perfect" people in the rest of the street. Okay so again that probably says more about me than it does about the characters in this book - but I really struggled to connect to any of them, I really didn't care what happened to most of them, and yet I couldn't quite bring myself to put the book down.
This is one of those stories that won't work if you read it on face value - there's a lot going on here and eventually I decided it's not as straightforward as it might seem at first glance. There's something being said here about class and aspirational living, about hidden tensions within families, and perfect "going out" faces. Whilst on one hand you can understand that the shell shock of a newly arrived couple who couldn't give a rats for others sensitivities, aspirations, quiet enjoyment is overwhelming, but on the other hand... well a bit of a shake up couldn't hurt these control freaks. And goodness knows I'd be cutting the power to any house that played music loudly into the night, but at the same time... there were points in this novel where taking sides was called for, and it got hard to decide where sympathies lay. On the obvious, good, aspirational, proper, upright family side or the shaker uppers just because.
Having said all of that, THOSE PEOPLE's not an easy reading novel. The general unlikeability of most characters could make it a bit of a struggle to give a damn, especially as it takes quite a while for the hint dropping to cease, and something tangible to happen. It wasn't until I'd finished that I decided something clever was going on here, that the structure was designed to challenge and to wrongfoot the reader. It's not meant to be easy reading, and it's meant to throw you just a bit. It's also one of those novels that make me enormously thankful for a rural lifestyle with excellent neighbours - quite a distance away.
Lowland Way is the epitome of the suburban dream. Every house and yard is carefully maintained for maximum curb appeal, and everyone knows one another and gets along. One homeowner, Sissy Watkins, runs a successful B and B from her house. Two brothers and their families live next door to each other. It's the picture-perfect neighborhood.
When Darren Booth and his girlfriend, Jodie, move in across from Sissy, it doesn't take long for them to begin making trouble. They're loud, rude, messy, and don't play by the community rules. They blast music at all hours and have started an unsightly renovation on their house. Before long, guests don't want to stay at Sissy's B and B, and everyone is fed up with the new neighbors.
An all-out war is brewing on Lowland Way. When a person is killed, accusations start flying. Someone is dead, and everyone has something to hide....