Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent – a review

I have seen some good reviews of this early last year so decided to treat myself to a copy to pass the time of a train trip over to Manchester.

The book opens with Alice in a coma after her husband Oliver has savagely beaten her.  It’s an act that has shocked everyone as from the outside it seemed they had the perfect life. Oliver was a very successful children’s book author and Alice was the illustrator that brought the books to life. It is from this point after the brutal attack that we begin to go back through Oliver’s life and find out about his childhood and the people he has met along the way. We are also introduced to the other characters in the novel all of whom have their own personal views of Oliver which we are gradually privy to.

I thought this was a great story that I sped through. It does seem at the moment that I’m reading a lot of ‘behind the scenes of a marriage’ styles of book, which this clearly follows. However this was a different take on the theme, focusing as it does on Oliver and his past. Whilst I can’t bring myself to say I actually felt sympathy for him, there were moments when you do feel empathy as he had clearly had a terrible life.

The other characters within the book were interesting although I must confess to being impatient to get back to Oliver a lot of the time. The dynamics of the different characters seemed to work well, and as the stories began to emerge you become more drawn in. It was very well written and I thought the title was very apt. It really did show the unravelling of a person’s personality and how the different strands all interweave to make a whole. Again it brings up the idea of nature versus nurture, was Oliver born bad or was he made that way?

This was a really good novel that is an excellent debut from a clearly talented author. I look forward to reading more from Liz Nugent.


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