Married to Alice, Oliver Ryan is a successful children’s author, with a fan base and charm. His books are illustrated by his talented wife but she plays down her part in their creation to allow her husband shine.
We first encounter Oliver in the opening sentence of the novel and it’s a shocking start.
““I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised.”
Oliver has knocked his wife unconscious. The question is why?
Right from the word ‘go’ we begin to slowly build up a picture of who Oliver Ryan is and the circumstances that led to this violent outburst.
Liz Nugent slowly sets about unravelling Oliver to explain why he does what he does
What’s clever about the ‘unravelling’ of Oliver Ryan is that his character is revealed gradually through the voices of different characters as well as by himself. Various individuals describe their interactions with him and almost all are betrayed by him one way or another. Perhaps the most powerful, and certainly the most poignant of these is Alice’s intellectually disabled brother, Eugene.
Slowly, as the stories emerge we see a pattern. Oliver’s motivations are manipulative, often malicious, sometimes even criminal. But he is adept at self-justification and what we learn of his early years helps us understand what made him the man he is even if we can’t condone his actions.
At just 231 pages, Unravelling Oliver is a short, satisfying read. Just be warned, you won’t want to put it down once you’ve started it.
[Disclosure: A free copy was provided by the publisher, Penguin, for the purpose of this review.]