Penguin Books 2014
‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her’
Alice and Oliver Ryan seem blessed, both in their happy marriage and in their successful working partnership. Their shared life is one of enviable privilege and ease. Enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma.
Afterwards, 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.
It turns out there is more to Oliver than Alice ever saw. But only he knows what he has done to get the life to which he felt entitled. And even he is in for a shock when his past catches up with him.
A relatively short book at just over 200 pages, with multiple point of view first person narratives which made for an incredibly quick read. I realise I’m late to the party with this one, no idea why, but I was mightily impressed with it.
So, what’s it about? Oliver quite unexpectedly beats his wife into a coma. The story is then told via the eyes of others, who have known him or his wife at some point previously. Plus Oliver contributes to this story. Oliver isn’t an especially likeable character from the offset, but actually by the end he is really quite repulsive. We learn from Oliver about his childhood and family. We then hear from friends, neighbours and past acquaintances, their stories unfold. We do not hear anything from Alice, she has no voice, being the victim of a serious assault and comatose.
In a very succinct way this reads almost as a true crime television documentary, with a story building up via the sum of its parts.
‘A page-turning, one sitting read from a brand-new master of psychological suspense’ Sunday Independent
Very true words from the Sunday Independent. I am a fan of books told from multiple perspectives and this book took that format one step further with so many narratives, which served to give the book life and energy, I could almost hear the different voices as they recalled their experiences with Oliver. An authentic read with a satisfying but not necessarily happy ending, with a central character intriguing, damaged and overall really not very nice. A great read, recommended by me.