Haven't They Grown by Sophie Hannah #BookReview #BlogTour

All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora Braid for twelve years.

But she can’t resist. She parks outside Flora’s house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except…

There’s something terribly wrong.

Flora looks the same, only older – just as Beth would have expected. It’s the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.
They are no taller, no older.

Why haven’t they grown?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Haven't They Grown today. Many thanks to Sophie Hannah and to Jenny Platt from Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me and for sending me an advance copy of the novel.

Beth Leeson is understandably curious about Flora Braid's life having not seen her former best friend for twelve years but rather than just indulge in a little light Facebook stalking, she seizes on the opportunity provided by her son's away game football match and decides to drive to her last-known address. It's appears that their friendship ended on a sour note as instead of knocking on Flora's front door, Beth parks opposite and watches the house. She is rewarded with a sighting but concerned by a phone call she overhears which leaves Flora looking tired and defeated. However, she is then completely stunned by the appearance of her two children, Thomas and Emily -  and with good reason as the pair don't seem to have aged a day in the interim years and still look five and three rather than the teenagers they should be.
It's a sinister premise for a book and something so extraordinary explains why Beth becomes obsessed with finding out the truth even when it leads to arguments with her own husband. The novel is narrated from Beth's first-person perspective which means it's perhaps easier to support her behaviour despite the obvious impact it has on her family life. I really enjoyed the dynamics of the Leeson household, particularly the relationship between mother and daughter. Zannah is arguably a little stereotypical (as the mother of teenage daughters, I can state that they don't all use bewildering 'teen-speak') but I loved her dry wit and strong sense of self.
It's not immediately clear why the friendship between the Leesons and Braids came to an end, other than the latter presumably changed after coming into a large sum of money. However, as the novel progresses, there are hints that Beth feels guilty about something which occurred shortly before the last time they saw each other. It adds an intriguing layer to her desperate search for the truth as it led me to question whether her actions are solely altruistic or if she needs to absolve herself or wants to conceal her own role in whatever happened.  There are so many moments which don't quite add up meaning it becomes increasingly difficult to know just who can be trusted; although Zannah's enthusiasm for helping her mum is infectious, there is always an unsettling sense that Beth doesn't understand the dangerous repercussions of her amateur sleuthing.
Sophie Hannah has also written a number of Hercule Poirot books and although Haven't They Grown is an entirely contemporary story, I was reminded of Agatha Christie when I read it. The mystery is undoubtedly improbable but somehow becomes entirely plausible thanks to the skillfully woven plot which sees the tension increase as it builds towards the final revelation. During the course of the book elements of doubt are introduced which meant I was never quite sure if what I was reading was the entire truth or  if Beth (and/or the reader) was being misled. The wry humour throughout the book works well but evil lurks here too, eventually leading to an explanation which makes perfect sense within the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed Haven't They Grown; the development of the cleverly constructed plot and the puzzling nature of the mystery kept me hooked throughout, with each new twist or disclosure ensuring I needed to keep reading to discover more  -  I ended up reading the whole book in one day! Highly recommended.

Haven't They Grown is published by Hodder & Stoughton, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer, translated into 49 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thriller The Carrier won the Specsavers National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year in 2013. Sophie is the author of the bestselling Poirot continuation mysteries. The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television as Case Sensitive, starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd. Sophie is also a bestselling poet who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE and A-level. Sophie is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge with her family.
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