Haven't They Grown
PublisherHodder & Stoughton
Date Published23 January 2020
ISBN-10 1444776185
Price£ 16.99

Haven't They Grown

by Sophie Hannah

Beth Leeson sees an old friend whom she has not seen for 12 years. Her friend has aged appropriately, but her children appear not to have aged at all. Is Beth mistaken about what she saw?


Beth Leeson and her family drifted apart from their best friends, Flora and Lewis Braid, about 12 years ago. On impulse she decides to go and see Flora and Lewis’s old house, knowing that they have now moved to America. As Beth sits in her car outside their house, a car drives into the driveway of the house, an older Flora gets out, followed by two young children. The children, evidently Flora’s, are the same age as they were 12 years ago. Beth, full of doubt about what she saw, cannot rest until she finds out what is going on.  

The story of Beth’s pursuit of the truth is told step by step with sufficient non-sequiturs appearing to keep the reader totally involved. Each time a new theory is formalised as to what Beth saw, it is knocked down and a new tack taken. The storyline is drip-fed with new information in a way that moves Beth’s thinking forward: Beth and Don, her husband, talk to a neighbour; they talk to the child’s school secretary; they go to the police; they go back to the house; they phone Lewis in America. Each time something new emerges, but not enough to satisfactorily explain what Beth saw.

In some ways the plot is relatively simple and the denouement is not as long drawn out as in previous novels by this author. Indeed, the tension at the end doesn’t quite work as there is not enough depth to the plot to produce a cliff-hanger ending.

The main characters are beautifully drawn in depth, each showing a particular type of behaviour that is entirely predictable in the plot. Their mannerisms, their speech, their homes, even their clothes all support their personality characteristics. The whole story is written from the point of view of the main character, Beth. Her tortuous thinking, her self-doubt, her analytical capability and her determination make her the perfect lead character for such a psychological drama.

The writing is very fluent with dialogue that sounds realistic. There is awareness of the differences in language used by different generations and very thoughtful observations of the way in which young people can think and behave. The book is suitable for a wide audience as it is a lesson in both mystery and family life. Apart from my few reservations about the ending, it is a very worthwhile and enjoyable read.

Reviewed 19 September 2020 by Sylvia Maughan