Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What we thought:

One of those rare reads you can't stop thinking about.
O'Neill's previous two novels - Only Ever Yours and Asking For It - are both pitched as YA and dive right to the heart of the female condition. Their protagonists are flawed and human and the damage unfolds in front of our eyes.

But with Sarah Fitzpatrick in Almost Love the damage is already done. This young woman is selfish, demanding, ungrateful, judgemental and throws her self-respect on and off like a cape.

The story switches between now and then.

Now Sarah's a lucky girl, living with her boyfriend Oisín in a house given them by his mother. She has a good job as an art teacher in Dublin and looks down on her country background and small-town friends. That doesn't stop her despising the glamorous crowd she hangs out with at the same time.

Then was different. Then, she met Matthew Brennan, successful estate agent and father to one of her pupils. Flirtation becomes an affair, strictly on his terms, but like any addict, she will sacrifice anything for a summons to that shabby hotel room. Her father, her friends and the man who loves her for who she is, Fionn, are all cast aside in her craving for Matthew's affection. Her betrayals get harsher as her need grows. Simultaneously, a sense of discomfort builds in the reader. It's like watching a car crash in slow-motion in the full knowledge there is nothing you can do.

Much has been made of Sarah as an unlikable protagonist, but I think we react against her because she reminds us of ourselves at our worst. Alarming and powerful, this book is a reminder of how your worst enemy might be yourself.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Psychological shadows such as in Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver or Involved by Kate O'Riordan

Avoid if you don’t like: The realities of obsession/addiction or a heroine you want to shake

Ideal accompaniments: Vodka Red Bull, fizzy colas and Human Behaviour by Bjork

Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction

Available on Amazon

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