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Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller

By Swirl and Thread

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Our Little Cruelties is the latest novel from Irish writer, and No.1 bestselling author, Liz Nugent. Published with Penguin Ireland, Our Little Cruelties has received praise from across many quarters with the Irish Independent saying that it is ‘dramatic and compelling … a whodunit and a Greek tragedy all in one … absolutely riveting’. It is a book that I had planned reading sooner but with the current global crisis it was only recently I was able to get my hands on a copy via the wonderful Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway.

There is almost an expectation with a Liz Nugent book of a dramatic and game-setting opening line and in Our Little Cruelties that expectation is very much fulfilled.

‘All three of the Drumm brothers were at the funeral, although one of us was in a coffin.’

William, Brian and Luke Drumm are three brothers who grew up in a Dublin suburb. Their mother was an actress and the brothers vied for her attention all their lives. Their competitive nature to succeed was to be their constant detriment and down fall, as in the end…one was to die.

Our Little Cruelties is the story of these three brothers from youth to adulthood and told from three very different perspectives. With very narcissistic tendencies, none of them extract much empathy from the reader but, reading their individual stories and the assumptions they each made of the other, is real ‘fly-on-the-wall’ stuff.

There is a great skill in being able to grab a reader’s attention from the opening line and holding that attention, without let up, for nearly 400 pages. This is what is exceptional about Liz Nugent’s writing. The Drumm family is completely dysfunctional. Their ability to communicate with each other is non-existent and their relationships with themselves and others is so very complex. Each achieves a certain level of success in their respected field but at a great personal cost.

The personalities of all characters, including the parents and the extended family members are all wonderfully depicted, providing the reader with a clear visual of what they are like. We watch them, observe them with horror, as they continuously mess up their lives. They are incapable of seeing beyond their own noses and their despicable behaviour is quite fascinating to witness.

“We all knew the experience had scarred him deeply, but it was one of our family’s little cruelties to revisit it, often.”

This is a family that is beyond redemption. Their mother, a self-obsessed egocentric distasteful woman, seems oblivious to the damage she is causing around her. Her temperament is brought alive through the pages as we watch her destroy the lives of her children, her boys. Altogether excellent character development throughout…

Interestingly enough, plot aside, I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. The years of the Drumm boys youth were my years. The familiarity was a really delightful surprise, with references to places and events that I would have known about as a 70s baby. It all added a very authentic, and obviously meticulously researched, element to the tale.

Our Little Cruelties is a marvellous creation. It does not contain a plot that can be openly dissected or discussed as to do so would ruin the wonder that awaits. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the atrocious and self-destructive behaviour of this very damaged family. The way Liz Nugent has woven the threads of this tale into a tight and gripping tale really is remarkable.

Our Little Cruelties is a shrewdly written, compelling, dark and deeply disturbing tale of sibling rivalry. A captivating evocation of a family tormented by their own selfish needs to be the best, no matter the price to be paid.

A very compulsive read that I highly recommend.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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