I was provided with a free copy of The French Girl by NetGalley and Penguin First to Read in exchange for my honest review.
I have had an ARC of The French Girl from both NetGalley and Penguin First to Read for a while now, and for some reason, I was never in the right reading mood for it. Once that mood hit, I had a hard time stopping and finished The French Girl in less than 24 hours.
The French Girl is narrated by a 31-year-old professional named Kate who has just started her own business and is living her best life in London when she receives news that turns her life upside down. Ten years earlier, Kate and five of her friends spent a week in the French countryside and met a mysterious young French girl named Severine. The friends turned out to be the last people to see Severine alive, and the investigation into her disappearance has been reopened upon the discovery of her body in a well on the property where they stayed. Only five of the friends remain, and when a French investigator arrives in London to begin questioning them all about the events of that week, Kate begins learning new details about that week that lead her to question what she thought happened on their last night there, all the while seeing Severine everywhere she goes.
From the very beginning of the book, I felt connected to Kate, the narrator, and empathized with the issues she faces. Before receiving the news of the discovery of Severine’s body, Kate was already experiencing the pressure of running a new business in a competitive field. Instead of glossing over those issues as a minor feature of the plot, Lexie Elliot allows readers to fully grasp them. Kate spends a lot of time staring at the spreadsheet that shows the financial trouble her company faces, worrying over her star employee Paul and the likelihood of him leaving for a position elsewhere, and arranging meetings with potential clients whose contracts could save her company. These details contribute to the slow burn of the book and made me feel more invested in Kate’s character and her outcome. Although most of those details are not connected to the primary plot, they still serve an important purpose by helping readers understand Kate’s character and what is at stake for her, once the investigation begins turning a focused eye on her.
Kate is not the only character with a lot at stake, however. As readers are introduced to Lara, Tom, Caro, Seb, and Theo, they see them through Kate’s eyes and begin to understand what they all stand to lose as a result of the investigation and the secrets it has the potential to uncover. What secret does Tom seem to be keeping? Why is Caro focusing so much attention on Seb, and why do she and Kate seem to harbor such negative feelings toward one another? What exactly happened with Seb and Severine on the last night in France? And is it possible that Theo could have had anything to do with Severine’s death? As Kate begins to question each of their actions on their last night in France, readers do as well, and once Kate begins to understand that the things she always believed about what happened to Severine may not be the truth, The French Girl grabs readers in a firm grip and doesn’t let go until the end.
Some other reviews of The French Girl focus on the slow-moving action throughout the beginning of the book and the anticlimactic ending; however, both of these elements were things that actually made me enjoy the book more. Instead of filling the book with tons of action and twists and turns, by choosing to focus more on Kate’s character, Lexie Elliot allowed me to form the connection with her that made me genuinely concerned for her as her mental and physical state began to deteriorate from the stress of the investigation. As for the ending, there isn’t much I can say without revealing spoilers, but I will say this–not all suspenseful novels have to end with a shocking twist or doom for the main characters. As much as I enjoy books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, I also enjoy books that allow me to believe that sometimes people ARE exactly as they seem.