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.
Why must I be disappointed by books I’m so eager to read? I didn’t end up loving this novel as much as I would have liked to, but I didn’t exactly hate it.
This novel started strong. It’s first line, “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her“, is brutal and shocking, it lures you in in an instant. What I expected to follow was a taut, heart racing novel about why such a “loving husband” would beat his wife into a coma. And, I guess I got the “why” bit, but I didn’t get the taut, heart racing bit. It was snail pace and didn’t really get exciting until the very end.
I saw another reviewer talk about the lack of character in the characters in the novel and she’s right. Considering this whole book was a character study, the people we got to study weren’t that special. I was most interested in Veronique so I was glad she had a good few chapters to herself, but I wasn’t particularly interested in reading about what other people thought of Oliver. Even Oliver’s own chapters could get irritating.
I can’t fault the writing in this one. For a debut, it’s really good! If you connected with the characters, the writing could definitely put you in their shoes and make you feel exactly how they felt, but because I didn’t connect with anyone, I didn’t get that pleasure. All I know is that the descriptions were realistic and insightful.
Obviously the plot for this one was what interested me and it sounded like a great story. Unfortunately it was too slow in revealing it’s secrets to keep my interest high, and so I began losing interest about the halfway mark. This was a short book but it felt long. I know we were supposed to get to know Oliver and all his troubles and worries in life, but it all felt like waffle. There were no definitive markers in this book to signify any sort of middle event that would lead us to the end event and so until the plot finally revealed itself this felt like one long biography of Oliver, with not a lot going on.
To give this novel credit, elements of the plot and the reveal are very unique to other books I’ve read. And I read a lot of this kinds of books. I suppose you could say the “why” in this book isn’t as dark as you would originally think. It’s almost trivial, I guess.
I sound a bit negative in this review but that’s just because I was so excited about reading it in the first place. In the end, a 3 star rating isn’t the worst thing ever, it’s just not great.
Thank you so much to Ali @The Sunday Feeling for sending me your copy to read!