I must have bought a copy of this book when it was super cheap on the Kindle store because it definitely isn’t the kind of thing that I normally have much hope in. I’ve also never read anything by Louise Candlish before. Still, there was obviously a time when it appealed to me and I ended up buying the ebook and audiobook version. After finishing Animal Farm last week, I decided that I wanted to read something silly and an audiobook sounded like a great idea. I’ve been so tired that even reading exhausts me. I had reached a point when I couldn’t get my way through a chapter before I started falling asleep and I hate stopping halfway. It just makes me feel uneasy. As if I’ll have no idea where I am when I start reading again.
Life on Lowland Way was perfect until Darren Booth moved into number 1. Darren and his girlfriend Jodie aren’t the type of people who belong on the idyllic street. Instead of abiding by the rules and fitting in, he prefers to play incredibly loud music into the early hours and run a second-hand car business out of the house. His middle-class neighbours have exacting standards and they decide that they have to do whatever it takes to get Darren away from them. When a deadly incident occurs, everyone on the street is quick to point the finger to Booth himself but is it as simple as it seems? Or is there something even more deadly at play?
Although, really, there’s nothing at all deadly about this book. There’s also nothing particularly mysterious about it either. It’s very obvious who committed the crime but that doesn’t stop the action being dragged on for as long as possible. The novel is told from the perspective of four main characters: Ralph, Tess, Ant, and Sissy. They are four of the residents of Lowland Way and they are all having trouble with Darren: Ralph is mainly just a stuck-up middle-class businessman who doesn’t like Darren or the way he behaves; Tess believes has several run-ins with Darren and Jodie about their behaviour; Ant lives next door to the couple and his home life becomes strained thanks to the constant noise; and Sissy’s B&B business is being destroyed by her new neighbours. They all have reason to want him gone and they are all being pushed to their limits.
Or at least that’s what the novel desperately tries to get your to believe. To try and cover-up the identity of the criminal, we keep being treated to phrases about how much they want to kill Darren. Except it’s never enough to hide the truth so you end up wading through lots of boring details for no reason. For all of its big talk, Those People doesn’t actually have an awful lot of thrill about it. There are no major twists and turns. The crime itself isn’t actually that impactful because of the way it happens. It just sort of gets brushed aside and, as a reader, you don’t really care about it. This is a dull book that mistakenly believes itself to be really exciting. It gets a little cringe-worthy after a while. I understand that it’s meant to be a domestic thriller but it just feels as though it’s lacking something.
Then there’s the writing. There’s something about the way the book is written that just really irritated me. For a start, the way she describes women is awful. So awful that I had to check that it hadn’t actually been written by a woman. And it’s not just the chapters from the perspective of the misogynistic Ralph that feel icky. All of the female characters just conform to horrible stereotypes: the rich saucepot, the bored stay-at-home mum, the dowdy divorcee, and the controlling new mum. There are no positive female role models in the whole novel and, more often than not, they are reduced to nothing more than their physical appearance. It feels as though it should have been written at least 20/30 years ago instead of 2019.
Then there is the frankly horrifying way that the novel depicts poor people. I know that nobody in the book is meant to be a good person and you won’t find yourself attached to anyone. However, there is a viciousness to the way that Darren and Jodie are presented by the author. They are the absolute stereotype of working-class people who come from an estate. They are lewd, violent, brash, selfish, and loutish. They aren’t seen to care about anyone or anything. There is only one character from the estate who is seen in a positive light and she is in the book for about 2 pages and only says 2 lines. I realise that this book is criticising middle-class opinions on working-class people but it’s not like it’s actually in favour of them itself. There are no nuanced characters within these pages. It feels like a really mean book.
This whole reading experience left a really bad taste in my mouth and I really have to ask who Louise Candlish was writing for. She doesn’t bring depth to any of the characters and shows no sympathy to anyone. It just made me really uncomfortable. Maybe the stereotypes were supposed to be funny or cutting edge but it doesn’t come across that way. Especially considering the way that the book ends. Those People attempts to make fun of middle-class people who don’t want poor neighbours whilst it’s making fun of poor people for being drunken layabouts. I don’t get it and I really don’t like it.