This is the first book I have read by Lesley Pearse. The House Across the Street is a slow build as Pearse takes time to build the characters and the Sixties setting. This is a difficult book to describe: part-mystery, part-romance, part-thriller.
The house of the title is in Bexhill-on-Sea. Twenty-three year old Katy Speed is fascinated by Gloria, her fashionable neighbour, who owns a dress shop in town. Katy is also fascinated by some odd comings and goings; a black car arrives, bringing women and sometimes children to the house. Katy’s mother Hilda disapproves of Gloria, thinking there may be something illegal going on. Then one night Gloria’s house burns down and Katy’s father Albert is arrested for murder. It is at this point that the story really takes off.
The 1965 setting is well portrayed. It is a time of social change. Katy and her friend Jilly dream of escaping boring Bexhill to live and work in London. Hilda is something of a mystery; moody, cold, traditional. Mother and daughter mirror the changing times and sexual freedoms of the time. The backbone of the story is domestic violence and the lack of help available for victims in the Sixties.The House Across the Street is a novel sympathetic to the Sixties, showing the transition after World War Two as the older generation shaped by their war experiences clash with their children who want to grab their new freedoms. Pearse contrasts the awkward marriage of Hilda and Albert, and Katy’s new friendship with a barrister at her new job, to demonstrate the changing lives of women. Katy has more opportunities than her mother, but the laws protecting women remain inadequate. At the heart of the novel lays brutality but also kindness and a sense of justice.
The second half of the book flew by as Pearse expertly handles the increasing intrigue.
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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET by @LesleyPearse #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3yv via @Sandra Danby