Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken. Either the girls run away… or they die.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

What I Thought:

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is a perfect example of a book that deals with incredibly unpalatable subject matter, but in a way that is utterly compelling. I’m generally a wuss with things that make me uncomfortable but Lane is such an incredible character that I just had to stick with her.

When you see that this book begins with a quote from Nabokov, you can make an educated guess at what being a Roanoke Girl means, but a couple of chapters in it is laid out plainly for you and from that point on, I was reading practically through my fingers but I could not look away.

The parts told from Lane’s point of view – both in the past and present – bring out the weirdness of Roanoke and its residents. The way the house itself is described is as an isolated oddity, with almost a personality of its own. There is an old adage ‘If these walls could talk…’ and it almost seems like the house is imbued with menace.

Roanoke and the town it’s in – Osage Flats – is in rural Kansas and Amy Engel uses the intense heat of the area as a perfect way to echo the tension among the main characters. While Lane is initially unaware of anything untoward in the flashback sections of the book, upon her return she is older, wiser and has left unfinished business behind her. The sense of claustrophobia that this brings is beautifully written.

This is a very dark book but, aside from that aspect of it, the mystery of Allegra’s disappearance is well done, and resolved in an unexpected way. Amy Engel does a great job of making us really feel for this troubled girl and also for Lane and for such a dark book, the ending is surprisingly hopeful!

The Roanoke Girls is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

To find out more about Amy Engel and her work, you can check out her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I received this book from Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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