Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

19099368I received this book from Penguin SA for review consideration.

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her”.  With an opening line like that, I was hooked from the very first page. The novel starts with the scene just after Oliver had hit his wife.  He says “she didn’t even seem to be surprised”, but he was. He left her on the floor to go drink at the bar and then came back and beat her into a coma. Why?

Oliver Ryan is a successful author of children’s books and he is married to Alice, who is the illustrator for his books. They seems to live the perfect life, Oliver as the handsome and charismatic husband and Alice the shy and docile wife. Oliver’s story is being told by himself, as well as many other characters – people who are his friends or people he has met along the way. This includes Barney (Alice’s ex-boyfriend), his school friend Stanley, the next door neighbor, Michael (his ex-girlfriend’s brother) and Veronique, the estate owner where he and his friends went to work at in France during their college days.

From these people’s perspective we get to learn more about Oliver. As a young boy, Oliver was neglected by his father who wanted nothing to do with him. An unwanted child that grew up in a boarding school with priests. He wasn’t even allowed to go home during school holidays and had no idea who his mother was. This boy grew up to be a successful writer, but is what happened a product of his upbringing? Did his childhood affect him psychologically?

There is no doubt about that. Oliver’s sociopathic behavior becomes apparent when we read Veronique’s narrative, maybe Michael’s too. The lengths he goes to, to get what he feels he is entitled to is nothing short of devoid of morals.  Tragedy upon tragedy happens and Oliver is at the center of all of it, but he gets a little surprise of his own at the end of the novel.  Unravelling Oliver is a psychological mystery novel, a story of envy and deception that will leave you unable to put the book down, especially if you enjoy psychological thrillers. To me, this wasn’t so much a thriller as it was a mystery. It really was an enjoyable read. I’ve pretty much read it in under a day. It’s fast paced, an easy read and with just 230 pages it definitely was the right book to get me out of my reading slump.  I can’t recommend it enough.

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