Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Title: Unraveling Oliver
Author: Liz Nugent
Published: August 2017, Gallery/Scout Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages
Source: Publisher

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

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

My thoughts: I was very fortunate to pick this gem up at BookExpo this past year after hearing about it during the Adult Book Buzz session. I had already had it marked as a book I wanted to pick up, but after listening to the one editor speak about it so highly, I knew I had to get my hands on it at all costs - and luckily I did!

This book, in a word, is brilliant! From the opening line (quoted above) to the tightly woven story that quite literally unpacks all that is Oliver so that we can get inside him to understand the man he has become to even attempt this atrocious act, is so cleverly crafted. 

At first I didn't quite understand all the bits that were being told to us - the people that had a big part in Oliver's life were narrators throughout the book and this is how the story unfolds. It moves back and forth in time through their memories - quite seamlessly I might add. But as I got more into the book, I slowly started to understand what was going on - they were slowly giving us a picture of Oliver. Interspersed throughout this, were chapters told by Oliver - and this just helped more to unravel the man that Oliver had become. 

This is an addicting, almost haunting read as you get to know more and more about Oliver and why he is the way he is. It's chilling and yet you just can't put this book down. I found myself glued to the pages once I picked this it up. From that stellar opening line to the very end, I could do nothing else til I knew everything! 

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Liz Nugent - for a debut novel, this was amazing! She is certainly an author to keep an eye on!!!


1 comment

  1. So glad to hear you liked this one. It's in my pile of September reads, but I've seen a few less than stellar reviews, so I was not anticipating it as much as I was after BookExpo.


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