Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unraveling Oliver

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

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbours, 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.

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Unraveling Oliver is a completely different read than I thought, even though the novel states exactly what this novel is about – unraveling Oliver. Right in the opening chapter, you learn that Oliver has beaten his wife, Alice, into a coma. Then the novel goes back and interviews every person that Oliver has encountered and their thoughts on him and what he has done. I definitely didn’t think that this would be more of a character study as opposed to a mystery/thriller.

I didn’t like Oliver right from the beginning (he has just beaten his wife) and my opinions of  him didn’t change throughout the novel. Yes, you learn a bit about his history and his less than ideal childhood, but I didn’t feel any sympathy for him.

The other problem that I had with the novel is that I didn’t have a connection with Alice at all. You don’t hear her thoughts, you just learn about her second hand from the other characters. So I didn’t feel anything towards her throughout the whole novel.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. If you like character dissection, you should pick up this novel. Those looking for a thriller with big twists will want to look elsewhere.


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