Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Tuesday 7 April 2015
Title: Unravelling Oliver
Author: Liz Nugent
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 9th April 2015
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9780241965641
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the 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 beats 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.

I devoured Unravelling Oliver over the course of one gloriously lazy Easter Sunday, forget the chocolate and just give me a good book. Unravelling Oliver has probably one of the most appropriate titles I have read in a long time as unravel this dark, dangerous and despicable human being is exactly what Liz Nugent does from the word go. I must warn you that this book is addictive, so addictive it should come with a warning. I won't do a rewrite of the blurb, but check out the above if you want to know more.

We hear from a number of characters other than Oliver, the reader learning how others view him, and how his history, upbringing and life experiences have shaped him into the man that beat his wife Annie into a coma. The book has a very hard-hitting opening, and readers will be desperate to read on. Liz Nugent is a fantastic writer, giving to each character a unique voice. Multiple narratives in a book is something I'm not usually crazy about, probably because very few authors manage to make it a success. Liz is not one of those authors. I don't want to sit here and list and dissect each and every character, but a few did stand out, especially Annie's brother Eugene who has special needs. She brings all of these voices together to tell the story, making it seem almost effortless. I would love to know how Liz set about writing this book, her planning process, the order in which she wrote it etc.

Although it was of course Oliver who will leave the longest impression on the mind of every reader and it's actually quite scary how real he felt, a tale that was all the more terrifying because of that. I imagine if this was made into a film, the right actor could make this character even more chilling and twisted. An author who can evoke so many emotions from a reader in the way that Liz does with Unravelling Oliver is an exciting one indeed. I changed my mind so many times about Oliver throughout the course of this novel. Also, an author that can pack a story like this in to so few pages (unlike some authors who just love the look of their own words on the page) is also exciting. I cannot wait to see what Liz writes next, though I must say she has set a very high bar for herself.

I honestly couldn't read Unravelling Oliver quick enough, wanting to know everything. There are some truly shocking revelations throughout the book, a number of which I didn't see coming. And then we have the ending, I obviously can't say too much but it was a good one, luckily this isn't one of those books ruined with a poor ending. Even after finishing the book and in between writing this review, I was still thinking about the characters and the story I had read. It is a very thought-provoking read, that will stay in the mind of the reader long after finishing. I have to say that I did work out a couple of the little twists, but this in no way ruined my enjoyment of the book. Unravelling Oliver comes highly recommended by me, so don't let it sit on your TBR for too long.



  1. I was so excited to read this book and waited ages to get my hands on it. I read loads of reviews on it and as such I cant tell you how much time I spent thinking about it as I find this subject matter domestic violence interesting as I work in this field. I thought it was very well written and the author definitely has talent.
    However I thought it was so boring and had to force myself to keep reading it as I thought it would get better. I respect your view. I read it towards the end of 2014 and I can say with all honesty that it was the most highly anticipated and most highly disappointing read I had in 2014 out of 100+ books I read.

    1. Always the interesting thing about books, the differing reactions amongst readers! I read one recently that most seem to loved, found it to be terrible and extremely cliched. Though thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  2. I have this on my TBR pile next to my bed (I say this to distinguish it from other TBR piles, Shaun, can you identify with that? As you seem so organised and read so fast!) and your last sentence is echoing in my mind....I'm betting he turns out to be a total fruitcake who had done lots of completely scary things to get to where he is....For some reason, I always think children's book writers and illustrators always strike (no pun intended!) as really benign lovely people - I wonder if that's a universal view and so why Liz Nugent chose the profession? As for your reviews Shaun they're getting better all the time - not that they weren't always great - but I really feel your voice comes through, as though I know you almost??! And I SO LOVE your enthusiasm about books! I think that's what every blogger strives for - I know I do - they're own distinct voice as a person. Keep em coming! And reading this asap!

    1. Linda, I have piles of books all over the house. Let's just say my Mum ISN'T happy. Trying to convince her to let me turn my brother's room into a library...

      And thank you! That means a lot. I think the same with yours, you have a style that I would just know it was you writing. I'm actually struggling to write reviews, writing so many I often think what I can say that I haven't before!

      And yep, the comment above obviously disagrees but I enjoyed it!

  3. I always try to publish my comments as crimeworm but on your page it bounces between publish and review and publish and review so I just give up now and use my name but I will say , I am CRIMEWORM! Lol!


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