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Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction

By Margaret Madden, BleachHouseLibrary.Blogspot.ie

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Thanks to Penguin Ireland for the ARC of this book……

What goes on behind closed doors? Is there such thing as a perfect marriage? Can a couple be equally respectful of each other? What causes a man to hit a woman he loves? All these questions are ones that crossed my mind when reading this novel.

Oliver Ryan is a successful author, living a comfortable life with his wife, in their perfect house in Dublin. To the outside world, and even to Oliver and Alice, their marriage seems to be one of contentment. All that changes in one night. Oliver beats his wife so badly she ends up comatose. How did this anger overtake him? What could have happened to have caused such rage?

The author takes us back to the beginning. Each chapter features a range of characters, including Oliver, Alice, their neighbours, friends and family. Each chapter has a thread that connects to another moment in Oliver’s life and these threads weave together to create the complete story of his life leading up to the assault on his wife. Tales of Oliver’s childhood are stark, yet by comparison, his friends and the women in his life have all grown up loved and surrounded by family. A trip to France in his college days is the catalyst for his future self, a man of secrets, lies and deception.

I read this book over a 24 hour period. I seriously could not put it down. The writing is superb, the story is so real that you could almost see the newspaper coverage that would, no doubt ,follow such an event. Oliver is an unlikable character when you can see into his thoughts and know what he is really about, but on the otherhand, you can see why he would be so attractive to others and have people drawn to him, like a moth to a flame. A mixture of other amazing characters, woven through the book, lend to it’s cleverness. As a reader, we are sucked in to the world of Oliver, turning the pages with great haste to see why he has hurt Alice so badly. I can’t find any flaws in this novel; perfect protagonist, great supporting characters, (especially in France), and perfectly pitched chapters. Liz Nugent is a novelist to watch out for. Her writing is sassy and clever but still has a poetic tone, well able to hold it’s own in the world of modern fiction.

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