First off I would say this book being marketed as chick lit or romance gives the wrong impression. There are some romantic elements, but I would push this more towards the drama side of things for the most part. Probably because you get to look at three marriages in different states, one long term couple that are very happy, three single women, an elderly woman and one single man. All together there is mention of maybe 20 characters, but we follow around a core of maybe 10 people throughout this book (Eve/Ed, Rachel/David, Kim/Jason, Charlotte, Emily, Trip, and Violet.
"The Girl Next Door" follows the inhabitants of an upper East Side co-op building in NYC. The book tries to frame things around a married couple (Eve and Ed) moving to NYC for a year from England, but that does not quite work. I thought there story was okay, but I felt pretty unmoved by them until almost the end of the book, I really found other characters more interesting. The book shifts perspectives and we follow along through many months to see what the city has in store for these characters.
Eve and Ed are dealing with moving to NY with Eve alone most of the time and being angry at Ed for her loneliness. Honestly I felt bored by both of them. Probably because if I had a chance to be living in NYC for a year without working I would be at every museum/play that I could. When Eve pushes for Ed and her to try for a baby, you definitely get the sense that it's becoming a band-aid to the bigger issues that are cropping up in their marriage. I will say it was nice that Noble didn't have Ed being a jerk or anything, he was just busy with work and not used to his wife being needy since until they moved she was really self-sufficient. As I said above though, I was pretty bored with these two.
The only real friend that Eve makes is an elderly woman named Violet. Violet and Eve meet when Eve joins a gardening committee for the building. Violet has a "tragic past" and it takes the whole book to get into it. I was pretty bored by her as well. Sorry.
I think for me the best characters to follow were Rachel/David, Kim/Jason, and Charlotte. And honestly Noble jumps around a lot so you really only get in depth looks at Rachel, Kim, Jason, Trip, and Charlotte.
Rachel and David appear to have the perfect marriage.
Kim and Jason's marriage is floundering after having to deal with the effects of dealing with IVF for many years before they had their hellspawn (sorry, everyone bitches about their kid in this book and it's kind of hilarious).
Trip is a trust fund kid without any idea about what he wants to do. When he meets Emily he realizes that he is going to have make changes if he wants to be with her.
Charlotte loves romance books though she chooses to opt out on making any changes to her life and prefers to daydream about things more.
The writing I thought was very good. Noble does a good job of having different voices for all of the characters. Even if she didn't there are headers to let you know who is currently speaking when you get to a new section/piece in the chapter you are reading. I thought it was great to show how slow things are to change/move by following these people over a long time period.
The setting is NYC and Noble manages to capture the city I thought very well. I kept laughing though at some pop cultural references that I think will end up aging the book after a while though.
The ending leaves things up in the air with several characters which is why I was glad to see in the afterword that Noble had initially planned to write a sequel to this book after she finished her next one. However, I can see that Noble has not put out a new book in years, so I don't think she's writing anymore. The last book of hers that I read was "When You Were Mine" and I did not like that one at all. I really did enjoy "Alphabet Weekends" though as well as "The Reading Group."