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The Story of Before

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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  42 reviews
On New Year's Eve, eleven-year-old Ruth and her brother and sister sit at a bedroom window, watching the garden of their new Dublin home being covered in a thick blanket of snow. Ruth declares that a bad thing will happen in the coming year - she's sure of it. But she cannot see the outline of that thing - she cannot know that it will change their lives utterly, that the s ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Corvus (first published June 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  218 ratings  ·  42 reviews


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Clare Snow
I have one thing to say:

No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
Jamie
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
From the opening lines of The Story of Before, Susan Stairs shows herself to be a master of building tension within a novel. She writes in the opening paragraphs 'So I wonder today how no one else could see the bad thing coming'. Gradually, over the course of twenty-one chapters, the ominous feeling builds to the devastating finale, an ending that stays with you long after you've read the book.

The story opens up in the 1970s with the protagonist Ruth and her family moving to a new estate just o
...more
Karina
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Atmospheric, spot on descriptions of Dublin in the 1970s...especially what it was like to be a child on a housing estate. The sights, sounds, smells, attitudes are brilliantly evocative; the freedom children had alongside the dangers they faced; the closed off world children inhabit that adults are seemingly blind to; the way that there is often an 'outsider' family in the area that can channel all the road's anxieties yet be grudgingly accepted.
Yes, I did grow up in the 1970s on a Dublin housin
...more
Elizabeth
Quite a sad little tale, not one to read/listen to if you don't like stories involving death of children. This isn't a spoiler, because the narrator says at the outset that the story will end with the death of one of them. It is quite clear from the outset which one of them it is, but when the end comes it is still very shocking.

All in all, a good story, albeit shocking in places, and quite upsetting.
Geraldine Rooney
I’ve read some of the other reviews and don’t want to be the only one to give a not so good one, the story held me until the last chapter it was a brilliant read until then, I just found it left so many unanswered questions like why did shayne do what he did? What punishment did he receive? And we never found out who the strange man was!!! Unless maybe there’s a part two?
Lorraine
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough about this book, having been out of reading for some time I really wanted something that I could really enjoy, I came across "the story of before" and thought sure why not!! I couldn't leave this book down!!! This book is gripping, fabulously written and has you intrigued from the beginning, it's one of those books you hate finishing because you'll spend so long trying to find another - it left me wanting to read more. Praise for Susan Stairs can't wait for the next !!!!
Sean Barrs
Jun 10, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copies
I have won this book as a giveaway and shall update this review when I have recieved the book and read it.

Update: I never received a copy; therefore, I didn’t read it or write a review.
SWC
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like going along the library shelves and reading book titles until I come to a book whose title and introduction intrigue me enough to check out the book. Such was the case with this book. The story is told from the viewpoint of 11 year old Ruth. Ruth has an older brother and older sister and soon arrives a new brother. The story of 'before' had enough intrigue to keep me reading until it became 'after'.
Rahbeka
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a very well written book. The story of Ruth, living in Ireland in the 1970's and the events that took place after her family moved to a housing estate. The author has evoked such a feeling of atmosphere that I felt transported into Ruth's world and partly back to my own carefree childhood days when we ran in the streets till dark, our parents not knowing where we were, but assuming all was safe and well. Until it isn't....
Lorraine Kehoe
Jan 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the read really like Ruth's character but didn't rush to pick it when I got home in the evenings
Books-I-Love
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
First of all, I want to congratulate Susan Stairs for making this remarkable book.
I really loved the book and still don't know what to do now ('cause still having a hangover).
She was really smart in doing the twist and everything. I didn't end up crying because I was mad at a certain character and I was shocked in what happened, and still can't believe that HE really did it.

ATTENTION! ATTENTION ALL readers-who've-not-yet-read-this-book! PLEASE STOP READING THIS REVIEW FOR IT MAY CRUSH YOUR VERY
...more
Anne
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"I wonder today how no one else could see the bad thing coming. Not that I knew back then what the bad thing was; and if I had - if I'd known one of us was going to die - would there have been anything I could have done to prevent it? I play back in my mind, over and over. The clues were all there."


These are the words of eleven-year-old Ruth, the narrator of The Story of Before. Ruth and her family have just moved into their new Dublin home, away from the house that her Daddy grew up in which be
...more
Samantha
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to have been sent this book direct from the publisher. When I received it i decided to get straight at it and I began.

This story is told through the eyes of Ruth, a sibling living in the 1970's in Ireland. Ruth feels left out as her older siblings are so close, this is until Kev comes along, she is left to look after him on numerous occasions.

It is an intriguing read and to be honest I didn't think much was happening, however it was Susan Stairs building tension, she has cre
...more
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ruth is eleven. She lives in a housing estate in 1970s Ireland, with her parents, her older brother and sister and infant brother. Ruth is a sharply observant and thoughtful child who occasionally has premonitions when things are about to happen. When the book opens, it's New Year's Eve and she gets a strong sense that something very bad will happen to their family over the coming year.

As the title suggests, much of this book is the "story of before" - it immediately goes back 18 months in time
...more
Cal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Crosse
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this a high rating for two major reasons. One, this is an Irish author and I'm an unashamed, biased, patriotic Irishwoman. And two, it was haunting in such a way I know I'll be thinking about it for weeks. You know those books that you read and for some reason or other in a years time you'll find yourself mulling the storyline over in your head wondering if you're remembering it correctly or would it be worth reading again?

I mean surely I'm not the only one who does this right? Right?
...more
Sam
May 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
"I wonder today how no one else could see the bad thing coming. Not that I knew back then what the bad thing was; and if I had - if I'd known one of us was going to die - would there have been anything I could have done to prevent it? I play it all back in my mind, over and over. The clues were all there."

The Story of Before is set in Ireland during the 1970s and is told from eleven year old Ruth's point of view. On New Years Eve she's watching it snow with her brother Mel and sister Sandra whe
...more
Nigel Goggin
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Susan Stairs is a hugely evocative writer. I read The Story of Before while on holiday recently. I was abroad but as I read I was quickly transported back to the estate where I grew up in Dublin.

The Story of Before is told from the viewpoint of a young girl and brings out childhood feelings and memories you have probably long forgotten. The anxious anticipation of being given out to by your parents when they find out you did something wrong, the first stirrings of attraction to another person bu
...more
Bonnieshortall
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written novel, made even more so by the fact that it is the author's first. The attention to character detail is astounding, from beginning to end, and I was left feeling as if I personally met each and every one of them.

The suspense created throughout the novel is nothing short of amazing. From the very first paragraph, I was wondering, turning pages, eager like never before to find out what the so called bad thing was.

My most favourite aspect of the novel was the ending (no spo
...more
Judith Yeabsley
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this book from the first page. Nothing much happens so it should be really slow and boring but it was totally gripping right from the start. The tension that builds throughout the novel is perfectly balanced so there is interest and emotional investment without frustration. The ending was also fabulous as it didn't end with "the incident" but dealt in depth with the fallout - surely the hardest part to write but also the section that stays with the reader. Emotionally invested - Yes, invol ...more
Sandra
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book set amidst a small community in Ireland. Ruth and her family have moved to the village after the birth of her younger brother. Ruth has the ability to fortell when things are about to happen. Two of the village boys start to take an interest in Ruth, going between playing tricks on her to taking her into their confidence. Friendships start to fray and Ruth and her family are being ostracized by the rest of the village. A tragedy occurs and the fallout affects Ruth and ...more
Janet Cameron
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book. Vividly atmospheric and descriptive - especially to anyone who grew up in the 70s - without ever feeling slow, The Story of Before manages to be nostalgic, funny, perceptive, suspenseful and chilling all at once. There were surprises at every turn and I was never sure who was telling the truth. It's the kind of book that has you talking out loud to the characters. ('What the hell are you doing? Go back!') My favourite bits were the unsentimental picture of sibling dynamics, and ...more
Catriona
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book about an Irish family in the seventies. It takes the reader to a housing estate and the author weaves her tragic story around the characters living on the estate. The story is told through Ruth's eyes, an eleven year old who is caught between childhood and adolescence. It is slightly slow to begin with but by halfway through I was racing through the pages, unable to put the book down.
Sallyann Van leeuwen
2.5 stars The premise is good, a young girl has an impending sense of doom when moving to new estate. There are some interesting characters in this neighborhood and she doesn't know who to trust. And when the unthinkable happens, her allegiance is questioned. Unfortunatelythe book was overly long in parts that dragged and short in the scenes that made it interesting. The ending is dragged out too, without any reason.
Debbie
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frances
The tension builds with each chapter of this book and at times I felt reluctant to read on and learn the awful truth which lay behind the story. Stairs skillfully describes family relationships and explores the impact of lies and half-truths as the Lamb family try to settle in their new home but find themselves treated as outsiders in the estate. A difficult but worthwhile read.
Cliona
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Loved the suspense throughout the book and having grown up in Dublin at the same time - I continually lol'd at the description of suburban life. Thanks Helen Stairs for the book! A great holiday read.
Gail
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
You know, this had me going for a while until I got bored and wanted the author to just cut to the chase. That chase was worth it but by then I was just glad to be moving along so didn't get to savor it. That's my fault and not the author's though. I'd throw in another half star if I knew how.
Sue Denham
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In what begins as a charming and witty tale of life in Dublin in the 1970's, somewhat akin to a Roddy Doyle novel, suddenly becomes something much darker and sinister. Arguably the authors unique style has created a new sub-genre in fiction.
Kristie Saumure
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: top, at-wcl
Given the reviews, I was expecting a bit more. Enjoyable, but didn't blow my mind.
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Susan Stairs has lived in Ireland since early childhood. After working in the art business for many years and writing several books around the theme of Irish art, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin in 2009. In the same year,she was one of six writers shortlisted by Richard Ford for the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award. She lives in Dublin with her family. The Story ...more

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“I wonder today how no one else could see the bad thing coming. Not that I knew back then what the bad thing was; and if I had - if I'd known one of us was going to die - would there have been anything I could have done to prevent it? I play back in my mind, over and over. The clues were all there.” 0 likes
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