Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Rose Lamb has always wanted to move out of the house her husband , Mick, was born in to somewhere more modern and she finally convinces him to move while pregnant with their fourth child. The family – Mick, Rose and their children, Mel, Sandra and Ruth – move to Hillcourt Rise, the seemingly perfect place to raise their children. The estate was built ten years ago around ‘the green’ where the children can play together and still be seen from their houses.
The family have been living at Hillcourt Rise for eighteen months when the older siblings gather by the window to watch the falling snow cover the estate on New Year’s Eve. Ruth has a feeling something bad will happen to the family during the next year and she tells her brother and sister her prediction.
The Story of Before starts off as quite a gentle story, chronicling the move to Hillcourt Rise and the summer they spend on the green with the other children on the estate. Although the book is set in the 1970s, a little before my own childhood, I found it fun and nostalgic and I loved the dynamic between the Lamb family. Mel and Sandra are in a continual battle while Ruth is the ‘good one’ who doesn’t really get involved in the arguments. She can be quite withdrawn and doesn’t make friends as easily as her brother and sister, but she doesn’t seem to mind and is more at home with her own company or sitting in her neighbour’s kitchen having a chat over macaroons. Ruth narrates the book and I found her young observations to be amusing and thought her father, Mick, was very comical without coming across as cartoonish.
But while the family settle into their new home and start to make friends, we know something bad is going to happen, something tragic that will tear at the heart of the family. We can see the move isn’t the happy event they thought it would be as their lives begin to unravel at Hillcourt Rise, but we also know there is worse to come, which kept me turning the pages to discover what Ruth’s ‘bad thing’ would turn out to be.
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