The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh – review
Having left the UK behind for a new life in Berlin with her Lebenspartner, Jane finds herself pregnant and isolated in a city where she has few friends and speaks little of the language. Stuck in their sleek apartment building while her partner is away on business – and all too aware of the new life kicking and writhing inside her – Jane develops a fixation with the father and daughter next door. She sees bruises on 13-year-old Anna's face and concludes that her father is abusing her. This, coupled with rumours that the girl's mother disappeared in mysterious circumstances, fuels Jane's increasingly feverish belief that the girl needs help. Louise Welsh's taut new novel at times feels like a psychologically potent cross between The Yellow Wallpaper and Rear Window. It's clear that Jane has experienced things that have damaged her but Anna's father, Alban Mann, is also an enigmatic figure and it's hard to gauge just what he might be capable of. Welsh expertly conveys the escalation of Jane's suspicions to something approaching obsession. The novel's power is slightly undermined by a cluttered conclusion that piles revelation upon revelation, but its grip until this point is considerable.
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