Louise Welsh not only has a history degree but she also ran a second-hand bookshop for several years before becoming a full-time writer. The Girl on the Stairs is her fourth novel.
Jane has just moved from Scotland to Berlin to have a baby with her wife Petra, however her building houses some suspicious characters. Soon after her arrival, Petra leaves on a business trip, leaving Jane pregnant and alone in a foreign country. Jane is determined to save Anna from what she believes is a similar abusive childhood to that which she experienced. On her road to save this girl, she encounters prostitutes, an old couple with something to hide, a suspicious priest and many buildings filled with stories from Berlin’s past to haunt her. To add to her qualms with the father-daughter relationship occurring next door to her is the questionable livelihood of Anna’s mother, whether she voluntarily left the family to resume life as a prostitute or is buried six feet under.
Throughout the novel, it is a constant mystery as to whether Jane’s suspicions over Anna and her father are legitimate or she has extreme paranoia from being pregnant and alone in Berlin. Either way, Welsh presents an emotional mystery perfectly interwoven with Berlin’s history. A fire at the church, a demented woman stuck in her 20s, police visits and abandoned buildings, buildings previously used to house tortured Jews, Jane’s paranoia grows and grows throughout the novel. Even the carvings in the fireplace haunt her, the gravestones at the churchyard, she sees no release from her mind and the stories she hears from the people she meets.
The Girl on the Stairs is an excellent read for anyone interested in history and mystery, dealing with child abuse, pregnancy, homosexuality, the church and the history of Berlin.
Available now: Hachette RRP$29.99