Another one to look forward to – Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

By | January 4, 2014
‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the leafy suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and puts her into a coma.

In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him.

Penguin are lining up some really excellent releases for the Spring – this is another, a highly accomplished debut novel by Liz Nugent, due for release in March for Kindle and in paperback.  This book was a simply wonderful read – I read it in one sitting, quite mesmerised by the different viewpoints on Oliver’s life leading up to the extraordinary act of violence towards the lovely Alice.  

We hear from Oliver himself, a supremely unreliable narrator, who subtly bends the truth to give his version of events.  Then there’s Barney, Alice’s former boyfriend who never felt he was good enough for her, and who forms a very touching lasting relationship with her mentally handicapped brother Eugene.  Michael was a friend from university days, the brother of Oliver’s then girlfriend Laura, now running a successful restaurant in Dublin with his partner Dermot. Veronique is the matriarch of Clochamps, the Bordeaux estate where a really dramatic event occurs, life changing for everyone involved.  Stanley was a school friend of Oliver’s, where he and his family showed him one of the few acts of kindness in his young life. We hear from Eugene, Alice’s brother, in stream of consciousness prose. And then there’s Moya, the predatory ex soap star neighbour, with her wonderful asides and unique take on life.

All the characters have unique voices as they provide different perspectives on Oliver’s life – a life in which he has been subjected to appalling cruelty, but then manipulates everyone around him to achieve his ends.  The writing is excellent – the different voices mean that your sympathies swing wildly as the story unfolds. There’s also a lovely wry humour running through what is essentially a really dark and disturbing story. It’s very different, and an excellent read.

My thanks to netgalley and Penguin Books UK for my advance reading copy.

Liz Nugent’s gripping novel of psychological suspense, Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith. In her early career Liz Nugent worked as a stage manager in theatres in Ireland and toured internationally. More recently, Liz has written extensively for radio and television drama. She lives with her husband in her native Dublin. Unravelling Oliver is her first novel.

3 thoughts on “Another one to look forward to – Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

  1. Lindsay

    I hadn't heard anything about this one Anne, it sounds excellent, you've just added to my wishlist! Happy New Year. x

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