Single mum Laura is recently divorced. Faced with the reality of London house-hunting, she’s renting a granny flat as a stop gap. Her new, temporary digs happen to be in The Close, an exclusive development of McMansions.
Laura runs a small cleaning company, while her lawyer landlady Gail is the only other woman on the street with a job. The rest are all interchangeable trophy wives forming a little clique around the haughty ‘Queen Bee’ Stella, who is suspicious of female newcomers.
When Stella’s smarmy music mogul fiancé Al co-opts Laura into a lie to cover up his slimy affairs, it creates a lot of tension on The Close.
As it happens, Laura’s firm cleans Al’s offices. A bee in her bonnet, she embroils her employee Angie in some rather unprofessional snooping. They learn that Al is indeed up to no good, and that the pampered Stella is about to have her world turned upside down.
“No one deserves to have their life changed by someone who hasn’t given them the chance to grow a shell to protect themselves,” reasons Laura, as she shoves the evidence in Stella’s Botoxed face.
The pair go from hating each other, to Laura acting as a crisis coach for Stella. Under the perfect facade, she’s a wily, surprisingly endearing character. It’s a pity the book doesn’t offer her viewpoint too, or for the women to learn more from each other.
Dowdy-and-proud Laura feels superior ‘cos she kicks back in sparkly cat pyjamas, next to Stella’s off-duty uniform of skinny jeans and heels. Perhaps she could have realised that it’s alright to take care of your appearance, and to not be so judgmental about women who prefer a high-maintenance look.
Laura’s “Ooh, I’m so normal, me” routine (while reaching for her ever-present bottle of wine) is laid on a bit thick. She’s had a nasty knock, sure, yet she’s also a capable, successful woman, with a company, a mortgage and a well-adjusted child.
Author Jane Fallon is hilarious on Twitter, and if you’ve read her earlier bestsellers, you’ll know to expect a sarcastic heroine one-upping the cheating man, or backstabbing friend.
A little bit of rule-breaking is entertaining, but Laura’s compulsive peeping fails the common sense test. It turns out she used to swipe through her ex’s phone. It seems her problems respecting boundaries are deep-rooted, maybe linked to her father walking out – an unexplored edge to the sassy, escapist fun.
When she rifles through the bedroom of her neighbour’s nanny, you care less about justice for Stella, and more about Laura finding the right therapist.