Author – Liz Nugent
Published – 2014
Genre – Crime fiction / psychological thriller
This was a book recommended (and leant to me) by Rhian of Books and Entertainment UK so it came with great credentials. With an attention-grabbing opening line “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” it didn’t disappoint.
The story is told by multiple characters whose paths have crossed those of the eponymous Oliver and his wife Alice. They share their thoughts on Oliver in a chatty and very individual style, with Oliver making his own contribution. Of course multiple perspectives on the same event offer an interesting view of how characters perceive their own role in what has come to pass.
The opening chapter and his seemingly unprovoked attack on his wife certainly don’t paint Oliver in a very positive light and this is reinforced as those who knew him tell their stories, but of course they never really knew him at all! Oliver, in his apparent arrogance, seems unaware of his unpleasant personality and the ruthless way he treats those around him.
The backstory of the characters and the places that their stories intersect with Oliver’s give the reader an insight into the circumstances that shaped his character. As the different contributors recount their experiences, not necessarily in chronological order, the author teases with the deceits and secrets that lie at the heart of the story.
As the story unfolds we see behind the facade that Oliver (and to some extent Alice) have created and the cracks in their apparently enviable lives. Perhaps Oliver’s behaviour has been shaped by the way his father behaves towards him when he’s sent away to school but although Nugent managed to make me feel some sympathy for her monster, it wasn’t enough that I could forgive him the worst of his deceits.
The story and the disparate threads are neatly drawn together as finally we find out what precipitated Oliver’s attack on his wife and whether or not, in the end, he realises what he has done to all those whose lives he touched.
You can see Rhian’s thoughts on the book on her blog.