The Family Upstairs

by Chandra Sundeep
Cover image of The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. It is an intriguing psychological thriller and a strangely confusing mystery rolled into one! The dysfunctional families, sinister atmosphere, convoluted plotline, creepy setting, multiple murders, and back-and-forth narration held me at the edge of my seat most of the time.

With timelines spanning both past and present, and a 3-point narration (Libby, Lucy, and Henry) Jewell tells us the story of two families that lived in a Chelsea mansion. Unexpected and unbelievable events had occurred in this lavish mansion more than two decades ago. Orphaned as an infant, little Libby is adopted by a loving family. The day she turns 25, she receives a large inheritance. In the process of acquiring the inheritance, Libby comes across past secrets of both her inheritance and her life.

Jewell’s multi-layered story is definitely high on imagination and is filled with strange and shocking twists and turns. She has done complete justice to creating the cult setting, and the dark characters lend weight to the story. The main characters have their own mysteries and secrets, and their stories collide in a relatively satisfying manner. Henry, as an unreliable narrator, adds immense suspense to the narration.

Jewell creates suspense with ease and does not reveal many clues until the very end. The menacing tone and unsettling atmosphere of the mansion make the story more immersive. The cult atmosphere and the rigid rules reminded me of Educated Tara Westover’s memoir.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the story is a bit confusing and requires a lot of attention to place the pieces together–the shift in narrative perspective though gripping also adds to the confusion.

There are too many characters to keep track of. I wanted to know so much more about a few of the minor characters. Unfortunately, their stories are not developed to their full potential. Also, a couple of sub-plots didn’t make complete sense and are a stretch of credibility.

While the pace is slow in the beginning, the ending was a bit rushed as too much started happening at a fast pace. The ending felt ambiguous and left me wondering if this was intentional. And now I know it was! The Family Remains, the sequel was released earlier this year.

The Family Upstairs, a dark and gripping psychological family saga, is an interesting reading experience.

This is my second Lisa Jewell book. I read Then She Was Gone last year, and liked the author’s writing style. Even this book reflects her trademark style of multiple stories and tying them all together in the end neatly.


Wordsopedia Rating 3.9/5

Title: The Family Upstairs Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books Publication date: November 5, 2019
Genre: Fiction–Thriller Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781501190100 No. of Pages: 352

Buy your copy here on Amazon.

About the author

Lisa Jewell is a British author of popular fiction. Her books include Ralph’s Party, Thirtynothing, After The Party, Then She Was Gone, The House We Grew Up In and The Girls in the Garden.

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