The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel [REVIEW]

Hello internet! I could regale you with a really long post about where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to (all in good time, my bookish chums) but for today we’ll settle for another Review That Brought This Page Back From The Dead.

That’s right. You heard me. I read another one of THOSE BOOKS. The kind that I loved so much I had to revive the blog for it. And it came out only a few days ago so it’s brand spanking NEW.

Are you ready? Awesome.

A friend of mine at Waterstones lent me a proof of this book but I think I might buy myself a copy in hardback because I enjoyed it so much.

So, what was so great about it? I’ll tell you…

the roanoke girlsTitle: The Roanoke Girls

Author: Amy Engel

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1473648371

Publication Date: 9/03/17



The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them which is never spoken. Every girl either runs away, or dies.

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?

Okay, I’ll preface this review by saying that there might be a little bit of a spoiler here, because I’m going to find it difficult to talk about the book without it – but I’ll do my best to avoid it where possible and I’ll talk about everything in the most general terms possible.

The Roanoke Girls is one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. It’s beautifully written, with Engel’s brilliant writing style pulling you right in from the get-go. The atmosphere of the whole novel is fantastic; it’s dark, brooding, close, hot… All the kinds of things that make the reader feel as claustrophobic as the characters involved. This is the first adult novel by an author who has written Young Adult previously (another genre I love), and I’ll be watching any further novels she writes with serious interest.

What I liked:

1. The writing

Engel’s writing is excellent. You get a sense very quickly of the claustrophobic heat, the sticky, sweaty, lazy Kansas summer. The weather is a great tension-builder, as everybody has a short fuse but is also often too hot to react violently – so they internalise how they feel. And it builds and it builds and it builds…

I love when an author uses pathetic fallacy to properly illustrate their novel, and Engel does a fantastic job of that here. The dialogue is great, too, because like the weather and the old family house, everything is layered. Nobody ever seems to say what they mean (or if they do you’re screaming for them not to), which leaves the reader to infer what they can from what is being said. I love when authors don’t overdo it, and Engel’s novel is short enough to prove that she’s mastered the art of telling us just enough. We readers like to be assured we’re not stupid and left to work stuff out for ourselves.

2. The setting

As I mentioned above, the setting is a big part of why I loved this book. I don’t know a whole lot about Kansas as a state (I lived in North Carolina when I was in the U.S.), but I know all I need to. The vast expanses of nothing, the farmland and dust and heavy air… All perfect for building a dark, psychological novel. Ace.

3. The ‘secret’

Here’s where the spoiler comes in. I’ll try to say nothing except that I am fascinated by the morbid (it’s why I love the darkest crime novels!) and the subject of Engel’s novel is no exception. This novel isn’t really for the faint of heart, yet the subject is dealt with in such a way that it’s not especially gruesome and there’s enough outrage fostered by the protagonist, Lane, about it all that it’s never fully romanticised either – which could have been a sticking point. So, really, I think it’s flawless. And I even guessed the Roanoke ‘secret’ the second I opened the book. Yep. It’s one of those where that doesn’t matter. We all know how much I love when that happens.

4. The length

Another thing I mentioned before is length. This book sits at just 288 pages and I think not a single one of those pages in unnecessary. This is clean writing at its best. We don’t sacrifice beautiful prose, description, characterisation, and yet we get everything from the novel that we need. I was fully, wonderfully immersed in the world Engel built for me and at the end I didn’t want to leave. In my opinion, the best books always leave you wanting that little bit more (while being satisfied). The Roanoke Girls is, in this respect as in many others, perfect.

What I didn’t like:


Yep. This is another one of those books. It’s been over a month since I read the novel too and I still feel this way, which isn’t always true. I mean, I tore through it in less than 24 hours (and this had zero to do with me borrowing my colleague’s proof copy on a deadline, I swear). The evening where I was reading the finale, my giant (60kg) dog Xena literally climbed onto the kitchen counter and ate an entire bowl of garlic bread. I was sitting directly opposite her and I didn’t notice.

I was literally so engrossed my giant-ass dog pulled a Houdini and I didn’t notice. I think that says more about this book than any of my other words can. So I’ll end with this: read this book. It’s not long, it’s a great price even for a hardback, it’s beautifully designed (c’mon just look at that cover), and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Do it.





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