@lizzienugent Just finished Unravelling Oliver. Fantastic book, well done to you for creating it. Looking forward to more from you.
— Hilary Band (@Hilzcat) April 9, 2016
The French edition of Unravelling Oliver Oliver oú la fabrique d’un manipulateur has been chosen as one of Elle magazine’s books of the year.
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.
Review: This past year I have had the pleasure of reading several amazing thrillers, like The Lie, The Girl on the Train or Evil Games to name some of my favourites, and I am glad to say that Unravelling Oliver will be added to this list. The story focuses on Oliver Ryan, a successful children books author. When we meet him, he has just beaten his wife into a coma even if he isn’t sure why or how that happened. From that moment we start unravelling his story (I actually found the title genius, as it is exactly what the story does).
We travel to his childhood, to his teen years, to his university years and to France, where he spent a summer when he was young that marked this life forever. Little by little, we start scratching the surface of this intriguing character. While reading these little bits of information about his life, we enter his world, his mind, and it’s difficult to let go. For a few days, even after finishing it, Oliver was all I could think about. It was like witnessing the birth of a monster. I was in his mind but he was in mind too. I tried to guess how he would respond to certain situations and tried to understand the understandable. But it turned out to be impossible.
It was a read so difficult to put down. Cleverly written and engaging. If you enjoy a complex and tense thriller then you can’t miss Unravelling Oliver. There is not a lot of action but it makes you held your breath more than once. And the mystery in the story makes you want to keep reading non-stop until you know all of Oliver’s secrets. Once I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking and talking about Oliver and his secrets to everyone around me. They are certainly a book and a character that I will remember for a long time.
Oliver Ryan has it all – a wealthy, successful children’s novelist with many years of a long and happy marriage to Alice, his illustrator, behind him. But then one day, out of the blue, Oliver beats Alice so severely that she barely survives and falls into a coma from which it is unlikely that she will ever awake. What turned Oliver, this famously cultured man, into a killer and why did he turn on the woman who had shared his life for decades? Their friends can’t make sense of it and try to work it out, looking back over five decades of memories and shared history.
Unravelling Oliver has a shocking opening – the brutal assault of Alice by her husband. We see the event through Oliver’s eyes and his words, making the act even more savage by its dispassionate retelling. From that moment on, Alice is gone from Oliver’s life and his future but she is not so easy to remove from his past. The rest of the novel presents a series of narratives by their friends, ex-lovers and family. The accounts alternate, some people we return to more often than others, some have little input but what there is has a devastating impact. Page by page, Oliver is unravelled. At times he contributes. His narratives, scattered throughout the book, are increasingly revealing when set beside the memories of those who know him.
We travel through the years, beginning with Oliver’s schooldays and young adulthood. Many people have been important to Oliver’s creation and we watch them here, leaving their mark. One person, though, can’t know the full story. More perspectives are needed and we’re given them. Each illuminates the other, some adding a few more bricks to the tower while others remove them. And all the time we have the absence of Alice. Her voice can’t be heard.
Unravelling Oliver is a short novel but it is immensely full and hugely rewarding. It is clever, richly layered, fantastically written and a book to make you think. It presents us with a series of characters and situations that are utterly engrossing. Oliver is unravelled slowly before our eyes but so too are others in his life. The narratives begin with shock at Oliver’s actions but with time they descend deeper into his and their shared past. Our emotions and sympathies are tested. Little is black and white. Some sections are upsetting, others are infuriating. Unravelling Oliver becomes an utterly compulsive read, continually surprising us, sometimes shocking us, constantly revealing yet another layer to unravel. What lies underneath keeps the reader absolutely hooked until there can be nothing left.
This is another great book. I’m not sure I can do it justice. It’s only 231 pages long, which goes to show you don’t need a story to be long and drawn out to be absolutely brilliant.
It’s the thought that goes into every sentence. The very first one of the book will hook you in.
I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.
And from there you will just keep reading. Keep turning the pages.
The chapters are from the points of view of Oliver and from people who knew Oliver in his distant past and recent past/current day. It really is a story of unravelling and not just of the person that Oliver is but how that day, where Alice was beaten into a coma, came to be.
We learn of Oliver’s childhood, his youth and past loves. We learn of Alice’s family and her loves. We learn how they all cross over and we learn it all in only 231 pages.
It’s wonderful. Clever. Uncomfortable at times. Sparse and neat. It’s everything all wrapped up neatly. This is writing at its best when you don’t need to drag it out any longer.
I could easily see this being made on the screen somewhere.
Another must read from me.
Told from multiple points of view the story of children’s author Oliver Ryan is revealed, from his isolated, sad and troubled childhood to his experiences as a university student and subsequent career in writing and his marriage to his wife, Alice.
This psychological/mystery thriller slowly reveals the portrait of a troubled character and the sequences of events that made him this way.
A thriller that tantalising unfolds and will haunt long after the story finishes.
My heart sank a little as I started reading this book and found that each chapter appeared to be written by a different person, as this can often be confusing for the reader and seems to be becoming a more and more popular device. However, I WAS WRONG! Liz Nugent chose exactly the right method to ‘unravel’ Oliver, as I don’t think it could have been done so successfully any other way and I just loved this book from start to finish.
The first chapter is shocking in itself, as we are presented with the violent sociopath that is Oliver Ryan, after he has viciously beaten his wife. Subsequent chapters provide the background to Oliver’s life and the chain of events leading up to the brutal attack, from the perspective of friends, relatives and Oliver himself. I could understand why Oliver’s upbringing might have led to him being such a damaged person, but every time I felt sorry for him, this was negated by him behaving in a way that prevented me from having any sympathy for the vile and manipulative person he had become.
The question I was left with as I read the final page was, ‘is a sociopath capable of an act of unselfish generosity, or does there always have to be an ulterior motive?’ Read and decide for yourself.