Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe there’s something really wrong with me, but I love books where the main character is seriously messed up. I like main characters who are potential psychopaths or sociopaths or who have committed a heinous crime. It’s not that I approve of those crimes, but I like to read from a very unique perspective – and what can be more unique than a villain? The first line of this story caught my attention and I knew I had to give this story a shot … so here is my review:

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

Oliver Ryan is a handsome, charismatic and successful author. With his devoted wife, Alice, they have written and illustrated award-winning children’s books. They have a comfortable life together – until one evening, after a wonderful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious. His subsequent beatings land Alice into a coma. In the aftermath of such violence, 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.

This is not a psychological thriller and if you are expecting one, you will be sorely disappointed. This story is all about character development – and I think the author is pretty clear about that from the description that was given. As mentioned by the blurb, the story is told from multiple perspectives – friends, neighbours, acquaintances, and Oliver all give their impressions. I think the problem with this novel was that the most interesting part of it was that first line. The story just didn’t have the juiciness I was expecting. The author puts in a lot of effort to make the reader understand Oliver’s character, and to a certain degree, I think there is success. There were times when I really did feel sorry for him and what he has gone through. However, there just seemed this disconnect between the power of that initial line in the story and the events and perspectives that followed it. I also really didn’t care for the other perspectives. They were really just boring, and the only person I really cared about was Oliver. In the end, this novel just wasn’t unique or interesting enough for my liking. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

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