Monday 4 May 2020

Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent @lizzienugent #OurLittleCruelties @PenguinIEBooks #BookReview

Three brothers are at the funeral. One lies in the coffin.

Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother's unequal love. As men, the competition continues - for status, money, fame, women ...

They each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead.

But which brother killed him?

Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent was published on 26 March 2020 by Penguin Ireland. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Liz Nugent's writing. I've read and reviewed all of her previous books here on Random Things. In my opinion, she writes some of the very best opening scenes. That killer hook that snares and then drags you through the following story.

Little Cruelties is another brilliantly written story that will chill the reader to the bone. The absolute depravity of the human mind and psyche is explored in such fine detail, leaving the reader wondering just how this talented author can dream up these things.

The story begins at a funeral. Two brothers are laying a third brother to rest. The reader doesn't know which brother is dead, and that is the mystery that is the central point of the novel. However, once this author begins her story of these three men, you almost forget that one of them is dead at the end, for you become so invested, so horrified, so shocked by their voices that it is the lives that they lived that is far more important than the one death at the end.

The story is told in three parts, one part for each brother; Will, Brian and Luke Drumm. They come from a fairly well off household, theirs was the biggest house within their friendship circle, but their circumstances were probably the strangest. Will, the eldest is self absorbed, self entitled and something of a bully, middle brother Brian feels left out, unnoticed and less talented than his siblings and youngest child Luke is something of an enigma. His obsession with religion and his fractious relationship with his mother goes on to affect his mental health in often life-threatening and serious ways, yet he is also the most well known of the family.

The boys mother, Melissa has also been well-known. A popular singer in her day, she's held on to that fame ever since, and it is her that shapes her family. It is Melissa who encourages, and often discourages her sons, who treats her husband with a mixture of contempt and sympathy and whose own experiences have been long buried within her, but have impacted on her decisions and her behaviours far more heavily than she realises.

Little Cruelties is very cleverly structured; the use of all three of the brother's voices as the narrative means that the reader's loyalties and sympathies switch back and forth as things we were told by one brother are related with a different point of view by the next. The complexities of human relationships are explored in depth, and the author doesn't shy away from some serious issues that can be upsetting to read about, but, as always, she does this with such skill. It seems wrong to call this work 'beautiful', but it really is beautifully written, and at times, quite ruthless.

I was left breathless by this novel and I have so much respect for an author who can create characters who evoke so many feelings in a reader.

Sublime and really just brilliant.  Highly recommended

Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in Irish film, theatre and television. Her three novels - Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait and Skin Deep have each been Number One bestsellers in Ireland and she has won four Irish Book Awards (two for Skin Deep). 

She lives in Dublin with her husband.
Twitter @lizzienugent
Instagram @liznugentwriter

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