Green Giants! Book Review : Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

April 27, 2015 Book review, Green Giants 14 ★★★★★

Green Giants is my feature where I share some of my favourite books by Irish Authors.   I’m passionate about Irish Authors, they supply us with a great and exciting mix of books, hopefully you will find something new to try.  Today it’s Liz Nugent who is my latest Green Giant and whose début novel (Unravelling Oliver) just blew me away!

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Green Giants! Book Review : Unravelling Oliver by Liz NugentUnravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Published by Penguin Ireland on April 9th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Crime, Psychological, Suspense
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from Publisher

Liz Nugent's gripping novel of psychological suspense, Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith.

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children's books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease - enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation. Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him.

This book is getting a lot of hype here at the moment so I was a bit nervous starting it as hyped books and Trish often don’t get along.  However I was ABSORBED in this one from beginning to end.  Now that sounds like such a cliché thing to say in a book review but it was the truth.  I loved the way the book unravelled Oliver as it felt unique and fresh and DARK as hell.  So I didn’t need to think twice about the rating, it was five stars all the way through for me.

First Line of Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent:

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

My Thoughts on Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent:

Well that first line tells you pretty much just what kind of character Oliver is.  He is one who can hit his wife and then callously sit back and watch her reaction like he had nothing to do with it.  He is a bully, arrogant and selfish.  As we say here in Ireland a ‘me feiner’ which means always putting yourself first.  He is also a famous author and portrays himself as a handsome, well-off, confident peacock all of which is also true.  And he is also capable of this –

“I punched and kicked and bit and slammed and dropped and wrenched and tore.”

I knew I was going to despise him from the first line and I was right.  And then we slowly get the bigger picture of just who he is and why he is the way he is.  We get the point of view of his wife, his lover, his friend, an ex girlfriend and some other characters who have hugely impacted on his life.  What I loved is that each one traced another piece of the picture but they didn’t dilute how horrible he is.

He has a pretty miserable past but that doesn’t forgive the decisions he made and the book never made me feel like I had to have empathy for him.  Lots of people have come from rotten childhoods and go on to become good citizens.  So I never absolved him for his HORRENDOUS decisions but I loved finding out just how all the various people fitted into his life and seeing the different versions of Oliver that they all saw.

Through their eyes we get the full account that lead up to Alice’s attack.  Some of the stories overlap and I enjoyed noticing the ways the stories differed.  The main story was still the same but the little details were different and it hammered home just how subjective, jumbled and chaotic all memories are.  They have all encountered a slightly different Oliver and all of them see just what they want to see.

The book was action packed and for me the pace was snappy and lively.  It was alternatively brutal, tragic and realistic.  It was also at other times lighter and funny.  The language used and the descriptions set the scene very effectively and made me FEEL so many emotions while I read.

Each character has their own chapter and each time I came to the end of a chapter, I was left thinking ‘I can’t stop now!  I have to get to the bottom of this’.  I loved when it all fitted together as it was dark, shockingly explosive and suddenly everything made sense.

At the end of the day, I still think Oliver is an insensitive, uncaring tyrant but I loved the outside look into how a tyrant evolved.  It’s my first book by Liz Nugent but I’m already eager for her to publish another one as she has quite the skill in bringing memorable characters to life.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: five-stars



Who should read Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent?

I’d highly recommend this book to all of you that are ok with reading about horrible characters.  This isn’t a happily ever after fairytale but it’s realistic and insightful but most of all it’s gripping.  If you are a fan of books such as How to be A Good Wife by Emma Chapman or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins then you might also like Unravelling Oliver.


Thanks to Penguin Ireland for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.




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14 Responses to “Green Giants! Book Review : Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent”

  1. Lark

    Sounds like one of those very intense books that stay with you for days. Thanks for introducing me to this author. I like psychological suspense novels and will definitely be checking her out! 🙂
    Lark recently posted…Two More TBRs…

    • trish

      Very intense Lark, I think Oliver is a character that you won’t forget. Hopefully you’ll get to read it sometime 🙂

    • trish

      I love that I’ve made you want to read something outside your normal genres! That makes me so happy! I hope you get to it sometime and that you end up loving it! 🙂

  2. Lola

    Oliver sounds like a despicable human being. I am not sure if I could stand to read about someone like that. It sounds like an emotional and well written book with many pieces and sides to the same story. It sounds interestig gto learn what makes him who he is, I like knowing more about characetrs and udnerstanding why they became who they are, although ofcourse that still doesn’t excuse the horrible things he does. Great review!
    Lola recently posted…Review: One Good Cowboy by Catherine Mann

    • trish

      He IS horrible but also very human. And I while I never forgive him, I do understand why he is that way. It made for a very interesting read, especially with all the different perspectives.

    • trish

      OMG Cleo, I was the same. I just couldn’t leave it down and read it in two sittings! So creepy and so gripping.

  3. trish

    And this was as much a ‘why-dunit’ as a ‘who-dunit’ which worked so well too. And yes, sadly not out in the US. But maybe if it does well salewise in Europe, Penguin will also release it over there. I have seen a lot that Irish/English authors do get released over in the US, just a little behind. Ditto here with American authors, we get the books long after they have been released in the US.

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