All These Beautiful Strangers

Elizabeth Klehfoth- Penguin Books

Review By Gemma E McLaughlin

While searching for this week’s book review I was struck by the stunningly beautiful and mysterious front cover of All These Beautiful Strangers and the unique white lettering on the tips of the pages spelling out “I know”. Despite the common phrase “Never judge a book by its cover” I am always impressed by a beautiful or intriguing book design and this was no different.

The story follows a young girl called Charlie Calloway in boarding school with an incredibly wealthy family and an interesting edge to her character which I haven’t seen in a character, especially a woman as often as I would like to. In the first few chapters we learn about her deep past and summers at their family home on a lake and tantalising references to the day her mother disappeared.

There are two seemingly unrelated mysteries curling around each other throughout the story. The first is that of her mother’s disappearance from their lake house when she was a child and that of the exclusive secret society in Charlie’s boarding school “The A’s”. The main focus at first is on Charlie receiving an invitation to join the A’s and the process of her initiation but as we go on we find something much darker lurking under the surface of The A’s and of her family.

We begin to learn just why Charlie’s character seems so controlled, and as is always the way with those who seem calm this is rooted in confusing emotions from the traumas of her childhood and the most prominent emotion in her mother’s disappearance is anger. We learn that not only is she angry at her mother, but also at her uncle Hank, for not just his betrayal of the Calloway name when he talked to reporters but also because he knows that there is something more at hand than her mother leaving them.

After hearing about this anger it is fascinating that we also hear from the perspective of Grace Calloway, Charlie’s Mother, in the year of her disappearance, as the plot swaps between 2007 and 2017, making us question everything we know about this book. I would go as far to say that hearing from two perspectives running in two different timelines was the most intelligent aspect of the story.

When finishing the book I was not only shocked as I always am at the end of a well written book, but also delighted at the sheer genius of the writing techniques used to amplify the mystery of the plot. I have always loved a book filled with mystery and endless plot twists and I have finally found a fresh new novel with all that and more. I urge all of those looking for a dark, relatable new story to sink their teeth into to pick up this book and take the time to enjoy it.