‘The Cellar’ is Minette Walters’ latest novel (or novella) and is a riveting tale of abuse, deprivation and revenge.
The Songali family obtained Muna from an orphanage when she was 8 years old. Muna is now 14 and has been the family slave ever since. Now the family lives in London and Muna sleeps in the cellar, never goes outside, cooks and cleans for the family and is physically and emotionally abused.
Muna’s life begins to change when the youngest Songali son Abiola goes missing on the way to school. With the police investigating, Muna is presented as the Songali family’s brain damaged daughter and the abuse stops while the police are around.
The Songalis think that Muna is stupid, but she is much smarter than they give her credit for.
As the search for Abiola continues, Muna begins to manipulate the situation to her advantage. And with each disaster that the Songali family experiences, her status and power grows.
But, there is a very dark side to Muna. She is exactly what the Songali family have created through their greed, abuse and neglect. She has turned on her keepers but at the very end it seems that she might not be able to get everything that she wants.
I spent much of this book sympathising with Muna, but eventually the darkness in her made me wonder about my sympathies. As for the rest of the Songali family, they were completely unlikeable. Even when Mr Songali tries to make amends, it is difficult to forgive him for some of the horrors that he has perpetrated.
The book was short and easy to read and kept me engrossed to the end. But it was also very disturbing and presented the depth of human depravity.
Minette Walters is still one of the best writers of psychological thrillers around and I will continue to read her writing.
Book Published 2015