Review Wednesday – Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The opening lines of a book are so important; for me, even more so when the book is an audio book; it really needs to pull me in. There have been mixed reactions to Unravelling Oliver but even those who were disappointed by the story seem to agree on one thing, it has a great opening line.
I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her …. She didn’t even seemed to be surprised. I was surprised. I hadn’t planned to do it.
Oliver has hit his wife. His is the opening viewpoint, as he discusses with cool detachment his own feelings about the event. There was an immediate and chilling insight, for me, as the reader, that there was something very wrong with this man.
The story proceeds through several viewpoints, some I enjoyed more than others but all were very distinct and if you are listening rather than reading, recognisable with excellent narrators throughout.
Oliver is telling his story, from his strange and unhappy childhood, which certainly has had a massive effect on his psyche, to the present day. Despite a singularly unusual upbringing Oliver is a successful man, that is, he is a successful author who writes children’s books under a pen name and has enjoyed fame and fortune which includes radio and television interviews. Oliver met his wife, Alice, through his writing, when the two began to work together, her as an illustrator of his stories, but Alice has always eschewed the fame part of their success.
Unravelling Oliver is a perfect title for this book. Once the reader has taken in the shocking situation at the beginning of the story we go back, hearing the viewpoints of friends and relatives as we unpick the layers of the story and find the truth. Why did Oliver show this sudden and tragic violence toward his wife? What caused this golden personality to fall so far?
I enjoyed Unravelling Oliver, the writing is interesting and assured and the often convoluted aspects of the story were all tied in nicely. Some viewpoints were more interesting than others, but each one moved the story further toward its conclusion. This book is not a thriller and, at times, I felt that the author wanted to redeem Oliver, to show his regret and his admittance (if only to himself) of his failings. That part didn’t work for so well for me.
As a study of a man, shaped by his own early circumstances, and rendered unable to care for anyone but himself to the extent that he will go to any lengths to better protect his chosen lifestyle, it is a book I will remember.

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