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!
Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Published by Penguin Ireland on April 9th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Crime, Psychological, Suspense
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.
|Did I feel it?|
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.