My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - on and off over 2 days
Pages - 310
Publisher - Hideaway Fall
Source - Review copy
Blurb from back cover
Richard Brown has had enough of his life of commitment, resentment, routine and responsibility. Staring out of his window, he enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, the neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From his lounge, Bill keenly watches as Richard's young family grows. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other people's lives are never what they seem.
Richard is a married father of two young children, he feels trapped, anxious and needs to get out for self preservation. The mundane life, the screaming children, the coldness of his wife, the irritation of his in laws, Richard cannot take anymore. When he looks out the window and sees his elder neighbour, calm, quiet, perfect he can't help but wish he could swap, even if it meant losing many years of his existence. Richard has to get out, he needs to escape, for himself and for his families happiness, the more he watches his neighbour the more he needs to cement his plan to be free.
Lee is an author who is a campaigner for mental health, from the books of his I have read this is very clear in the stories and his writing. Whilst Richard is the main focus of the story, we see signs of other glimpses of mental health in the other characters. His wife I felt had a huge struggle going on, in the glimpses we get of her and her interactions I think she is also suffering deeply and I think this is very clever writing by the author. We often get so self involved and wrapped up in our own lives, struggles, personal issues, Richard is so wrapped in his own journey and issues his wife is just background noise.
I think mental health is something we need more focus on and doing it in the form of fiction is a fantastic idea. We get to see inside a seemingly happy family life, we see that through Bill's eyes, the neighbour across the way that Richard covet's "happy" home. We see how Richard struggles daily and the lengths he will go to to avoid time with his family. I really wasn't a fan of Richard for a lot of the book, his plan on what he was going to do was despicable. However when you get into the story and understand his suffering, his journey it gives you a different insight.
An important show of how the grass isn't always greener on the other side, something many of us are guilty of yearning for. How mental health can affect us differently and completely control our lives, outlooks, actions. It provokes thought and challenges judgements the reader can't help but make when initially meeting Richard and by the end giving a completely different view point. 3.5 out of 5 for me this time, I have a fair few books by this author on my tbrm I need to bump them up the list.