Book review: The Good Girl by Fiona Neill

Friday, 7 August 2015


I recently received a free copy of this book from Penguin (via Mumsnet) to review. I was a tad excited about this! I've just finished reading it, so thought I would put my thoughts down while they're still fresh.

The Good Girl follows the Field family, shortly after they have uprooted themselves from London to the coast of Norfolk. The reasons for the move are initially unclear, but they start to unfold as the book goes on. Also unfolding are the characters themselves, their flaws, their weaknesses, and their secrets.

The novel alternates points of view chapter by chapter, switching between the third-person perspective of Ailsa, mother, wife, and headteacher, and the first-person perspective of Romy, her sensible and intelligent seventeen-year-old daughter. I really liked the change in writing style. It gave me the sense that Aisla was almost holding back, revealing more as the book continued - I found it hard to warm to her at first, actually, and found her prickly and judgemental. I empathised more with Romy in her chapters. Romy is interested in neuroscience, like her father, and is vastly more intelligent than I am, but I feel the author captured the voice of her youth well.

There are other interesting characters, too: Harry, the father of the family and neuroscientist, able to dissect a behaviour and relate it to brain function; Luke, the oldest of their children and a bit more of a wild child; and Ben, the youngest at nine years old, with unspecified developmental issues and excellent spying skills. You also have Rachel, the somewhat unreliable aunt, and the Fairports, their, er, unconventional neighbours.

As the story goes on, you start to realise that something huge must have happened to prompt the move from London, and you are given this information in bits, and it feels satisfying (but not over the top) when you finally realise what the reason was. The whole book feels tense as you read, knowing you are eventually going to find out the truth.

The book deals with the issue of the internet, pornography and social media, specifically what happens when one mistake becomes very, very public. Aisla and Harry seem utterly unprepared for the influence that this technology might have on their family, particularly the developing sexuality of their children - despite how much Harry understands about how human impulses work. The consequences of this are pretty haunting and left me shaken - and questioning my own social media use, the narcissistic nature of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and why we feel the need to share so much. As a blogger, this obviously hit pretty close to home. I liked the way the author was able to deal with this without it being in any way cheesy or heavy-handed. As this all unfolded, I started to warm more to Aisla, and to empathise with her - and, yes, to be a bit fearful of how I will cope when my own daughter is a teenager!

There is a lot of neuroscience in this novel - passages of conversation about how the brain works. I found this fairly interesting, but towards the end I started glossing over those parts. They are an interesting (and important) part of the story, however.

I really enjoyed The Good Girl. From about midway through I was so hooked that I couldn't stop reading it. I feel it would make a brilliant addition to a book club, especially given how current the main subject is - in fact, I'm now contemplating starting a book club, and if I do, the Good Girl might be the first one I suggest!

The Good Girl is published by Penguin, and you can find more information here. Thank you again to Mumsnet for sending me a copy! 

2 comments:

  1. I have just finished reading this and I too was hooked! Great to see what you thought of it.

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    Replies
    1. It's really gripping isn't it? A bit frightening though. Sort of dreading when my daughter hits the teenage years!

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