Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
|Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A book that really shouldn't work as well as it does, but keeps you reading long past bedtime. Great plot, superb characters and a stunning conclusion.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Penguin Ireland|
|External links: Author's website|
Oliver had expected more of a reaction the first time that he hit Alice, but she just lay on the floor holding her jaw. He was stunned that he could do this to his wife, but later that evening he returned and beat her so viciously that she lapsed into a coma. It was difficult to understand how this had happened - this was the man otherwise known as Vincent Dax, famous writer of children's books and he and Alice (she'd illustrated the books) had lived a life of ease and privilege. In the disbelieving aftermath Oliver tells the story of what had happened over the last five decades and how this had led to his becoming a monster.
We don't just hear Oliver's side of the story - we hear from the people who have come into contact with him over his lifetime. In the early days you'll sympathise with Oliver. His father disowned him as a young child and he was sent to a boarding school, not even to return home in the holidays - despite the fact that he could see his home from the school. Oliver learned that he would need to be devious if he was to get the life he wanted - and over time he realised that he would never have a relationship with his father or an explanation of what had caused the rift.
Telling a story from multiple viewpoints - making them all individual voices with a valid story to tell in a few pages - takes a great deal of skill and it really shouldn't work. It particularly shouldn't work when the book is written by a debut author and it needs to build to a stunning climax - but Unravelling Oliver does work and works extremely well. It's a book you'll want to go back and read again to see how it was done, because the plot is very well constructed with elegant hooks which hold the story together without being too obvious.
The characters are well done too. In the early stages, as you learn about Oliver's childhood, you want to be sympathetic to him. Before long you sympathise with his plight but somehow you can't quite warm to the boy - or to the man he becomes - but women will find him good looking and charismatic. You're not surprised that he takes advantage of it, that his marriage vows mean nothing to him.
The story takes place in Dublin (where author Liz Nugent lives) and in France and the locations work well. This was a treat of a book - one that kept me reading 'just another chapter' and needing to know how it all worked out. It's also a great pleasure to have discovered an author to watch in the future. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.