The house where so much of The Girl Before takes place is a minimalist’s dream; a testament to how we can get by with barely any material goods. The latter may seem impossible to those of us who carry our many belongings with us wherever we go. Yet, reading this book, I can see the lure of an uncluttered life.
The house, in fact, becomes a character in the story. More than just a backdrop, the house affects the main characters and seems at times to be an extension of Edward Monkton, the architect of this rule-bound home.
"After their English aunt dies, listless American twins Julia and Valentina travel to London to live in their aunt's now empty flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery. There they become embroiled in the day-to-day sagas of their eccentric neighbors. But soon they discover that something is alive in Highgate--something unable to move on."
A few years after losing his wife and daughter in an automobile accident, Michael Reed finds himself working at a university for a nameless humanities department with a specialty so vague it’s impossible to imagine what he does for income, if anything. Not that Mr. Reed isn’t busy. His insights into humanity’s rougher edges are realized by a relentless labor of the mind. He’s strenuously alert to the injustices of middle age, the sublime beauty of reckless youth and the absence of the two people who once defined his life.
Charlie Giles is an up and coming tech guru who, with his elite team, invented a digital entertainment system for automobiles. Charlie’s company has been purchased by a larger company and Charlie, along with his team, is in charge of product development.
Why is Duncan so warm in his flat during the coldest of winters in London? An efficient heating system and good insulation, he tells his neighbors. But why is Duncan so warm in April with the heating system turned off and the windows open? And who is this good-looking new guy, who admires his reflection in every shop window he passes? He has fallen in love at first sight with the woman that Duncan has inventively named Tigerlily, who lives next door.