The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

This was another book I’d seen getting some attention on twitter for some time late last year. I found the idea of it intriguing, even if I am getting a bit sick of books with ‘girl’ in the title, but the blurb put me off a bit. The phrases “beautiful, rich mysterious” and “who are the Roanoke girls?” are used and it’s all just a bit bleugh. Anyway, I had nothing to listen to on audible (I currently do not have wifi so have been making my way through Harry Potter again!) and saw that this had been released and so gave it a go.

I’m rather thrilled to say that this was a lot darker and twisted than I had suspected.

From the blurb, I had thought I’d get some flowery descriptions of these ethereally gorgeous girls who are involved in some strange cult or something, and that the new girl would be initiated into the group before realising how wrong it all is and fighting her way back out again. There are a few elements of this that aren’t too far from the truth. The Roanoke girls are all described as beautiful, though this is more a curse than a blessing, and there is definitely something cultish going on, but not in the quasi-religious, death oath way I had imagined. With the name ‘Roanoke’ in there, I’d also thought it might be a period piece written at the time or around the disappeared colony of the same name but no.

Ok, time to move from what it’s not to what it is.

The Roanoke Girls is part thriller and part family drama. It is written from the perspective of Lane Roanoke, and covers two periods in her life, eleven years apart. In the earlier episode, Lane’s mother, Camilla, has just committed suicide and she is placed in the care of her grandparents in Kansas. They are already raising Lane’s cousin, Allegra, who seems to have everything she could possibly want. Through the one summer she stays in Kansas she meets the local youth and does a bit of sexual exploration with, but also uncovers the horrific secret her family have been keeping quiet about the other women in the family, who are all either dead or missing.

This is dripped down to us through the course of the story, though we discover what the big secret is relatively early on considering, but then another issue arises and it becomes about uncovering the truth about that instead.

There’s a lot that coincidental and convenient about this. Every child born in the Roanoke family, for instance, just happens to be female, which is statistically rather improbably but there you are. The women are all also rather stupid and incredibly weak, bar, arguably but not unequivocally, our protagonist.

Those are possibly the only criticisms I have though. It’s really rather good and I’ve already recommended it to a couple of people. I also finished it in two days which is always a good sign. Frustratingly for review purposes, however, there’s not an awful lot more I can really discuss without giving stuff away. It’s definitely worth giving it a read if I have intrigued you in any way at all.

Currently reading:
Book: The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara (equally, if not more, disturbing)
Audio: Harry Potter

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