Fragile by Sarah Hilary

About the book

Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperately trying to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes teh opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easily they can be to break . . .

What I thought

This book certainly lives up to its description of a dark thriller. After just a short way into it, 20% or so, I thought that I would give up on it. It’s unsettling with a grim story line and grim characters. Even so the writing is compelling. I kept going because the writing makes you want to read just one more page, just one more chapter.

I haven’t read anything else by this author but understand it to be a slight departure from her crime fiction. It is beautifully written, creating a palpable atmosphere within the walls of Starling Villas – a house tucked away, almost unnoticeable in a busy London street. With its odd and sinister occupants, at times you could almost think the story was set in Victorian times, for life in that house for 18 year old Nell is so austere.

Nell and Joe lived in a foster home run by the least motherly woman you could ever envisage caring for foster children. For the most part she left the children to more or less look after each other, with them all having their own chores to do, Nell became a surrogate mum to little Rosie who was just a toddler. Nell and Joe became close, with Nell worshipping the ground Joe walked on and Rosie worshipped both of them but more so Joe. When they’re just 15/16 something tragic happens with Rosie but the reader never finds out exactly what happened until almost the end of the book. This led Nell and Joe to run away to London.

We meet up with them in London two years later after they’ve slept rough and sofa surfed, keeping the company of undesirables just to try to keep a roof over their heads and keep them off the street. That is until Joe disappears and Nell finds herself a job as a housekeeper for the mysterious Robin Wilder, whilst looking for Joe.

The rest of the book gradually reveals Nell and Joe’s backstory and what really happened to Rosie. The chapters to and fro over time and between what is going on with Nell at Starling Villas and Meagan the foster mother back in Wales.

It is a somewhat morose story with a constant air of gloom hanging over the plot. Even so it is compelling and as I reached half way, I became very engrossed in it. In keeping with the whole book there is no happy ending, nevertheless it was very poignant and stayed with me for a while after I’d finished it. I have only briefly covered the surface of the story, it runs far deeper than I have described, but it is certainly unusual.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for an advance copy of the book via Netgalley

The book is published today in e-book format and hardback and is available from Amazon and other book sellers too.

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