The Girl Next Door, By Elizabeth Noble

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The Independent Culture

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail..." This advice from Ralph Waldo Emerson is used by Elizabeth Noble as the epigraph of her novel and she explores it in all sorts of unexpected ways.

There is a large cast of pathetic, sexually frustrated characters between her pastel covers, including Eve Gallagher, who has relocated with her husband to an apartment building on New York's Upper East Side but is struggling to relocate her mind and emotions, which remain stranded in her old home. She has gone where there is no path but is floundering, lost.

She is so lonely that she hovers around the mailbox a little longer than necessary, hoping that someone might talk to her. (The mailman doesn't count as "she hadn't really understood his thick Asian accent".) She is rescued from her misery by the one-time reclusive Violet, who has lived in the building for many years.

So simple is this book that there is no chance of not understanding it. Alas, its clichéd prose, in which its protagonist lies in a "post-orgasmic puddle of gratitude", does not always inspire the turning of pages to meet the bores next door.