I loved this quirky unusual thriller; it’s full of verve, brio and vigour, with twists as knotty as a gnarled old oak tree and an unexpectedly frightening conclusion. It begins with an irresistible proposition: why, when Beth hasn’t seen Flora (once her best friend, now long-estranged) for 12 years, are Flora’s two children Thomas and Emily still aged five and three? They should be seventeen and fifteen but no, there they are, outside Flora’s house, unmistakably the same cute little tots Beth knew so well a dozen years ago.
Beth is stunned, and back home she tells her husband and two teenage children, who were once great pals with, and the same age as, Thomas and Emily. They mull it over. Was Beth hallucinating? Has she simply made a colossal mistake? Could this be some sort of supernatural phenomenon? Or, as her entertainingly mouthy daughter, Zannah, suggests, maybe the first two kids died, and the second lot were named in their honour? From now on Beth is like Miss Marple on speed. There’s no way she’s letting this go.
Sophie Hannah’s writing style is vivid, stimulating and enormous fun. Yes, this is a thriller, and yes it follows a psychological family drama that is sometimes dark and nasty, but what a wild ride this novel is! So many twists and turns, so many opportunities for Beth to give up on her impossible quest, which takes her as far away as Florida; but our heroine is not only intrepid and brave, she’s actually quite brilliant, her deductions as left-field as Sherlock Holmes.
Neither of us has ever read a Sophie Hannah book before, although we know she is immensely popular and has been compared to Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell, high praise indeed. In fact, she’s a complete original, her bracingly fizzing plots like intricate jigsaw puzzles; you can’t quite believe she’ll fit all the pieces together, but somehow, she does. Haven’t They Grown is intelligent, classy, and tremendously entertaining. We loved it.