The Playground

The Playground

by Jane Shemilt


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"Countless psychological thrillers get compared to Big Little Lies; Shelmilt's is the real deal."  — People

"Beautifully written and suffused with dread. Jane Shemilt's domestic settings are seductively vivid, and the final outcome is profoundly shocking and terrifying." 
  — Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062939425
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 12/30/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 24,927
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

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The Playground: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SheTreadsSoftly 16 days ago
The Playground by Jane Shemilt is a highly recommended domestic drama. Set in London, the lives of three very different couples and their children intertwine and become toxic in The Playground. Eve has a healthy trust fund and is married to Eric, a landscaper. They have three children, Poppy, 11, Sorrel, 6, and Ash, 3. Melissa is a successful interior designer married to Paul, an abusive, cruel banker. They have one child, Isabelle (Izzy), 13. Grace is an immigrant from Zimbabwe who is married to Martin, a one-time successful English writer. They have two children, Blake, 11, and Charley, 9. The family lives on the 13th floor in a high-rise housing project and Grace is the sole provider for them. The families meet when Eve becomes certified to teach children with dyslexia. She did this to help Poppy, but decides to offer classes to help other children while helping her daughter. Two other families pay for the tutoring: Grace and Martin for Blake, and Melissa and Paul for Izzy. On the first day of classes, the die is cast and all the children are together. Blake's sister Charley is allowed to stay and Eve's two youngest are also home. The families become involved with each other, resulting in an illicit relationship. And no one is really watching the children and their secret games. The novel opens with foreshadowing that something terrible is going to happen and clearly the combination of these three very different families is toxic. Truly, this is a novel populated by very unlikable, self-involved and delusional characters, with the exception of Grace who is the only one who is working hard and therefore not around early enough to see warning signs. Her husband Martin is a slouch, allowing her to shoulder the load. Eve annoyed me to no end, with her mantra that children need freedom to run free, unstructured and unwatched. I understand allowing unstructured play time, but that doesn't mean unobserved. Melissa allows her husband to abuse her and doesn't seem to realize her daughter is watching this behavior. But, make no mistake, someone is watching and the children know more of what is going on and have secrets of their own. Obviously, the writing is very good, especially when it elicits such strong emotions. Shemilt does a satisfying job developing her characters and their points-of-view in the multiple narratives. We hear from Eve, Melissa, Grace, and Izzy. There are a few twists that might distract your attention, but Shemilt provides enough ominous indications that most readers are going to know what is going on long before the denouement. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins
VolunteerVal 24 days ago
It’s been quite some time since I read a domestic thriller, but this was the perfect book for a cold, rainy, dark weekend. In this novel, readers spend a year with three families who primarily live in London. Proximity and the educational needs of their children bring them together; when their lives become fully enmeshed, things begin to go horribly wrong. Since this is a thriller, I knew bad things would happen - most happen to children so be advised. The title of this novel is odd, but I love the tag line: “Who is watching your children?” I thought this was well plotted and mostly believable.