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’s new lawyer landlady Gail is the only 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. Laura herself runs a small, successful cleaning company.
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. Because – as it happens – Laura’s firm cleans Al’s offices. A bee in her bonnet, she ropes her employee Angie into some rather unprofessional snooping, discovering 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 prepare to shove the evidence in Stella’s Botoxed face.
The pair go from hating each other, to Laura acting as a kind of crisis coach for Stella – who – under the perfect facade, is a wily, surprisingly endearing customer. It would have been great if the author added Stella’ voice too, and for the women to learn 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.
Author Jane Fallon is hilarious on Twitter, and if you’ve read her earlier bestsellers, you’ll already know to expect a sarcastic heroine one-upping the cheating man, or backstabbing friend.
Laura’s “I’m so normal,” routine (while reaching for her ever-present bottle of wine) is laid on pretty thick. She’s had a divorce, sure, but she’s a capable, successful woman, with a company, a mortgage and a well-adjusted child.
But when she rifles through the bedroom of her neighbour’s nanny, you care less about the plot, and more about Laura finding the right therapist. As much as I love Fallon, a little bit of rule-breaking is entertaining, whereas Laura’s compulsive peeping nearly fails the common sense test. It’s hinted that her problems respecting boundaries are deep-rooted, maybe linked to her father walking out – an unexplored edge to the sassy, escapist fun.