Sarah lives at Number 24, a Georgian villa in Notting Hill, London which is home to five different families. She is from the top flat and is still feeling raw after her divorce, made especially worse because her ex-husband Leo lives in the flat below her with his new wife. In the spring, Jane and Tom move into Flat C. Their optimistic energy breathes new life into the old house. Sarah develops feelings for Tom, and although she knows that she’ll never be the other woman, attraction crackles between them. As a child psychologist, Sarah senses sadness from the quiet little girl, Una, who lives with her single mother, Lisa. In the basement, alongside Lisa and Una, elderly Mavis resides in the shadows. For years, Mavis has chosen a solitary path and ignored the world. But she realises that life is about to change at Number 24.
This book is in the third person, told from Sarah’s point of view. It moves along at a steady pace and gains momentum around halfway through when Sarah gets a wake-up call. A surprise twist follows soon after. Actually, there are a series of unexpected twists which are good, if not a little farfetched. I also liked the wise Confucius quotes from the Chinese takeaway calendar which corresponded to each chapter.
Sarah is an insecure character to begin with. I can understand that her confidence has been knocked after her divorce, but I did get a bit annoyed with her sometimes. You slowly learn more about her turbulent upbringing and it’s apparent that she still has trust issues in her adult life. In this respect, it’s hard not feel sympathetic towards her plight. She has to walk around on eggshells and is left to pick up the pieces from her failed marriage. Leo is a cad and it’s frustrating because Sarah’s feelings for him cloud her vision. Thankfully, Sarah gradually becomes more assertive. She makes some mistakes and is initially unsure of her feelings, but that’s what makes her human.
I was taken aback by the casual sexism shown by some of the male characters. It begs the question: what did Sarah ever see in Leo? He’s fake and patronising. The fact that he ended almost every sentence with ‘darling’ made me quite angry.
This story is set in Notting Hill and you don’t really hear that much about the area, apart from the Notting Hill carnival. It would have been nice to have learnt some more about this vibrant part of London.
All of the loose ends are tied up neatly near the ending, and this book is essentially about neighbours-turned-friends who help each other out in times of need. There is also a blossoming romance, so the main themes are friendship and love. I felt the book could have been about 100 pages shorter, but overall it’s a sweet and surprising read which isn’t afraid to delve into some deep subjects.
My rating: ★★★★☆
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Goodreads giveaways for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.