Book Review: The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday
I didn’t realise I should have read The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers first! No, it doesn’t really matter, but Charlie is mentioned in The Girl on the Landing and it seems that the author later decided to make a whole book out of Charlie.

I love it when characters from one book come back in the next. Maeve Binchy does that a lot, she has a whole town full of people who keep re-appearing in her books although they are not a series. Also David Mitchell has some identical characters in Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green.

The Girl on the Landing: What it is about

Elizabeth and Michael have been married for ten years. Michael is a boring but reliable husband who has a house in London and an estate in Scotland. He doesn’t really work, although keeping his estate going requires him to go to Scotland every now and then. Otherwise, he spends his time at his gentlemen’s club in London.

Although they don’t need the money, Elizabeth has a job, to keep her from getting bored. She has never really enjoyed Michael’s company much, but she still seems to be content with her life with him.

Then, on a visit to his club friend in Ireland, Michael is fascinated by a picture in the hall. It shows a girl on a landing. When he asks his host about it later, he is told there is no girl in the picture.

From then on, Michael seems to change. He’s starting to become more fun, Elizabeth can finally have a laugh with him. He suddenly talks vehemently about subjects that he has never mentioned before.

Soon, Elizabeth realises something is wrong and if nothing is done, things could end really badly for both Michael and others.

The Girl on the Landing: What I thought

This was my fourth book by Torday and I seem to recognise a pattern: the protagonist is a man, roughly middleaged, comfortably well off, conservative, who moves in circles of wealthy people with clubs in London, manor houses and shooting facilities. I never like the men themselves, but I like the stories around them.

This book started off really well, and I was planning to give it 5 stars. However, it sagged a little in the middle. We discover what Michael’s problem is and Elizabeth is trying to find out more about it, but this takes a bit too long for me. The ending is also a little … uncertain.

I liked it that there was a hint of magical realism in the book. What Michael was experiencing, was it really there? Was it really there, but only for him, or was it completely made up by him? Those were interesting questions that weren’t quite resolved at the end, which gave a mysterious touch.

The book is alternately told by Elizabeth and by Michael, which is interesting, as this sometimes leads to the same event being told twice, but from a whole different perspective. It makes for some good examples of how people judge each other wrongly when they don’t know the real facts.

I very much enjoyed the book and I’ll definitely read another Torday when it comes my way!

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: borrowed from a friend

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 308

First published: 2009

Genre: contemporary fiction

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

12 Responses to Book Review: The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

  1. This sounds intriguing-I’m going to add this author to my list of writers to keep an eye out for.

  2. Trisha says:

    I can be a bit OCD about the order in which I read books. I haven’t deteriorated to the point where I have to read an author’s catalog in publishing order or anything, but I do get annoyed when I read a book in which a character from a prior book, which I haven’t read, is featured. Even if you don’t “need” to have read the first. It’s a quirk. 🙂

  3. Julie P says:

    Nice review–thank you for sharing!

  4. InsideJourneys says:

    I’ll have to check out this book. Thanks for your review.

  5. Nadine Nys says:

    I’ll have to check out this author. Thanks for the great review, Judith!

  6. Cindy says:

    It sounds good.
    (I also like Binchy. It seems silly to waste good characters in only one book.)

  7. InsideJourneys says:

    Hello Judith,

    Just wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you for a Virtual Blogger Award.


  8. Meg says:

    An interesting premise — and one I think I would enjoy, especially based on the setting!

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