Review of ‘Girl A’ by Abigail Dean

This is a disturbing novel about a girl who survived terrible abuse in a ‘house of horrors’ and as an adult is still suffering from the trauma of it. The book is being marketed as a ‘crime thriller’, which is misleading. It doesn’t have the pace, twists and tension that you’d expect from the genre. I would describe it as an exploration of the psychological effects of abuse. It’s been all over my social media feeds, so when I saw it was available on the library e-book catalogue, I decided to try it, thinking it would be a thriller.

The protagonist, Lex, is known as Girl A, one of several siblings who were starved and chained up by their parents, who used Christianity to justify the cruelty. As an adult, Lex is named executor of her mother’s estate, which involves meeting up with the siblings again and ultimately revisiting the house. The narrative alternates between the present day and the past. I found it incredible that there was not a single mention of a health visitor or social worker attempting to visit the family. The events took place seventeen years ago (or thereabouts, as far as I remember from the text); not exactly the dark ages in terms of child welfare policy in Britain. Of course, cases will slip through the net, but surely there would have been some attempt to engage with the family. The story seems less realistic because of this.

Some of the writing was very engaging and powerful. Some of it was confusing, perhaps intending to reflect Lex’s state of mind. I didn’t see why the adult Lex had to be a lawyer, as the details of her job and colleagues are uninteresting and contribute nothing to the story. My attention flagged at a few points in the present day narrative but I was gripped by the flashbacks. The ending was ambiguous, which I thought was fine, but not all readers will be satisfied.

This novel is memorable and skilfully written but I didn’t enjoy it.

First published in 2021.

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12 thoughts on “Review of ‘Girl A’ by Abigail Dean”

    1. It’s really not for everyone. If I’d known it wasn’t a thriller (at least by my definition) I doubt I would have read it.

  1. I’ve seen this one doing the rounds as well, I was in two minds about it, but I think I’ll skip it after reading this, sounds like there are much better options out there. Enjoyed reading your thoughts though 😊

    1. There has been a lot of buzz for this book, I think many people will read it just because of that 🙂 Thank you!

    1. The more people you see reading it, the more you will probably want to read it! But if you do, I look forward to hearing what you thought. Thank you 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading 🙂 I think anyone expecting a thriller will be disappointed. I’m not saying it was a awful read, there were some very effective elements, but it wasn’t for me.

  2. Exploration of the psychological effects of abuse sounds like an interesting premise. But it’s strange, that it is being marketed as a thriller, most likely quite a few readers will be disappointed. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, on balance I don’t think it is for me either.

    1. It’s an important and emotive issue to be tackling, which I thought was very impressive for a debut novel. Maybe I have a different concept of what a thriller is, but if it’s a thriller then it’s not like any I’ve experienced! Already it’s doing very well on the bestseller charts, which is great for the author. It’s not for everyone though.

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