A perfect house doesn’t make a perfect home, as the Davenports found out all too late in The Sudden Departure of the Frasers. We started to imagine who from literature we would want next door and who we would deliberately move away from; here’s our selection of the top five books which feature the very best and very worst neighbours, from funny and romantic to dark and dangerous.
1. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Perhaps the most infamous neighbour of all time, the allusive Jay Gatsby is a stand-out character of literature. Whether it’s the parties, the intense romance, the mysterious lies or the fabulous film version with Leonardo, The Great Gatsby is perhaps the perfect ‘neighbour-novel’. The roaring twenties are brought to life with bright noise and colour and no matter how many times you read it, you cry when that car hits Daisy and Gatsby is shot. It’s one of those books that keeps you thinking for hours, days and even years after reading, about how much you can trust Nick’s narrative of Gatsby and whether Daisy was even that wonderful…
A fantastically original debut novel, A Kind of Intimacy is a compelling story about an obese woman, Annie, who is new to the neighbourhood and keen to fit in with her apparently special ‘social skills’, particularly with the man next door. It’s a hilarious book which explores the inability to know others and ourselves, presenting us with a scarily relatable protagonist with dark and violent secrets. With a narrator as unreliable as Nick from Gatsby, you’ll struggle to know what’s real and what is madness and find yourself wrapped up in a quirky but brilliant read.
3. Emma – Jane Austen
The JoJo Moyes of the 1800s, one of Austen’s books seems to make every list we write. Emma is one of her funniest and sweetest novels, whose characters still seem to feel relevant even today. The cheerful rapport between Emma and Knightley is the original hate-to-love romance story, which has been done over and over since but not ever quite like this. A neighbour who provides laughter, personal growth and a perfect husband, Knightley is Emma’s only critic, and ultimately, her only love; they provides us with a love story that seems timeless.
This is the story of two young teens from the Hart and Gold families, who have lived next door to each other for 18 years. Chris and Emily make a pact to kill themselves but when Chris survives, he is blamed for Emily’s murder. It’s a haunting book full of love and tragedy by one of the queens of commercial fiction, delving into the minds of troubled teens and heartbroken families, with a brutal legal battle which seems to line so many of her books.
5. The Rose Petal Beach – Dorothy Koomson
If you haven’t read any of her books, I urge you to immediately go out and buy one. The Rose Petal Beach is Dorothy’s eighth novel, it tells the tale of Tamia Challey whose life is completely upended when her husband, Scott, is arrested in front of her and their two children…for raping her best friend and neighbour Mirabelle. It’s a story full of deceit, disturbing surprises and some tear-jerking sadness. Once again you are lost in Dorothy’s characters; she’s a true artist at bringing them to life and tearing at your emotions with them.