Behind Closed Doors | B.A. Paris | 2016 | MIRA | 286p | Review copy | Buy the book
Jack and Grace appear to have it all – a happy marriage, a beautiful house (designed to fulfil every one of Grace’s requirements for a dream home), wealth, exotic holidays, good looks and charm. The story of how they fell in love is perfectly romantic, with Jack sweeping not only Grace off her feet but also her sister Millie, a loveable young girl with Down’s Syndrome. For the first time, Grace met someone who would love Millie and do more than that. He would welcome her into their home when she finally finishes boarding school. When fiends and neighbours pop round for dinner, they are delighted, with the meal (Grace is quite a cook) and with this enviably loving couple. All but one. This is the first time that Esther has met Grace and she can’t help looking at her very closely because, after all, if something appears too good to be true, often it is.
Behind Closed Doors is told entirely in Grace’s words, with the present day mixed with her recollections of the past, beginning with the day that she met Jack, this handsome man with George Clooney looks, while she was dancing in the park with her sister. The novel opens with a dinner party, during which Grace is nervous, keen that everything should go well, that her souffles will impress. This is entirely understandable but as the pages pass and Grace feels more comfortable in confiding in us, the reader, we begin to learn what really goes on behind the closed doors of this perfect home and marriage.
This is B.A. Paris’s first novel and it is a remarkable achievement – Behind Closed Doors is one of the most intense and disturbing novels I have read in a long time. It’s not always easy to read. The subject matter is brutal and deeply worrying. And the way in which Grace lays all this bare is chillingly cold and sharp. The account is full of little details which reveal the true horror of her existence, little moments and incidents which by themselves would seem unimportant but which combined build up to create a monster.
Behind Closed Doors is a very fast, very powerful and very dark novel. It put me right outside my comfort zone but its shocks and twists held me spellbound, as did the figures of Grace and Millie, and I was desperate to see how it would finish. I was not disappointed. B.A. Paris is to be congratulated.
I’m delighted to post this review as part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Behind Closed Doors on 11 February. For other stops on the tour, please take a look at the poster below.