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Monster Love [Hardcover]

Carol Topolski
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Jan 2008
Brendan and Sherilyn. A young couple in love. Each has met their soul mate, and nothing can come between them. In fact, the Gutteridges are so wrapped up in each other that their neighbours barely know them, despite the woman next door's nosy curiosity. Their families and their work colleagues see only the perfect couple in the perfect home, the perfect car crouching in the drive. And then a baby is born - contaminating this pristine life in which there is only room for two. But they find the ideal solution. What may be one couple's happy ending is everyone else's indescribable nightmare...Told through the Gutteridges' voices, and those of their families, neighbours, and those who will come across them in the aftermath, this perverse love story hurtles to the heart of evil - the evil that could be anyone's next door neighbour.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree; First Edition edition (31 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905490267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905490264
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,025,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Amazon Review

About the Author ~ Carol Topolski
Carol Topolski is a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her many previous roles include music festival organiser, advertising executive, teacher, nursery school director, director of a rape crisis centre and refuge for battered women, probation officer and film censor. She lives in London and has two grown up daughters and one granddaughter.

Exclusive Interview with Carol Topolski

What is Monster Love about?

Monster Love is about Brendan and Sherilyn Gutteridge, who live an affluent life in a Manchester suburb accessorised by all the objects success can buy – cars, houses, clothes – but who neglect their child and leave her to die. The story is told in mostly first person accounts by the couple themselves and by those who have been around them in the past and over the course of the child’s brief life and death. The evil coiling beneath their surface gloss slowly slides into view and a complicated, three-dimensional picture of two damaged individuals emerges. My ambition was not to exonerate them, but I needed to know why they’d done what they did; why it had seemed so essential to them to rid themselves of their daughter; why they considered her annihilation an act of self-defence.

What inspired you to write it?

I wanted to explore what lies behind the kind of tabloid headlines that scream ‘PERVERT! BEAST! MONSTER! when someone is accused of a heinous crime. It’s the kind of shorthand that shuts down thinking and persuades the reader that the remedy is simply to lock the accused away, lose the key and watch society magically return to a state of grace. Killing a child – especially your own – ranks high in the hierarchy of unconscionable acts, so I embarked on an archaeological dig in the Gutteridges’ history, hoping to disinter whatever had caused them to kill their child. In my professional life, in different guises, I have struggled to discover what froths behind masks and make sense of things that often appear senseless.

Who are your literary influences?

Whilst my own writing is very character driven, I admire writers who not only situate me in the skin of their characters, but can tell a story. I want to be able to give myself over to a book, so Philip Roth’s magnificent biography of 20th century America, "American Pastoral’, "I Married a Communist" and "The Human Stain" picked me up, held me entranced whilst I read it and put me down, changed. 19th century English writers, too, evoke the emotional theatre of their characters’ lives in the course of epic, thrilling stories – Charles Dickens, of course, George Eliot, Arnold Bennett – as do the Russia greats: Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy in particular. I find, however when in the throes of writing that I can barely read – not from any fear that I might imitate another author, more that I need to inhabit my own unfettered mind.

If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?

Blindness by Jose Saramago, a Nobel prize winning Portuguese writer. In the course of writing of a people struck by a plague in his inimitable, difficult, eccentric style, he explores the notion of community, the nature of exclusion, of identity, the tentacular hold of implacable governments and how friable civilisation’s veneer really is.

What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?

Take your time, both in the preparation and the writing of your book. Sit with your characters as though you’ve invited them in for a leisurely meal. Know how they’d feel if they cut their finger, what fruit they like, what holiday they took when they were seven, what smell disgusts them, what weather inspires them. Even if you use nothing of that on the page, that knowledge of their emotional geography brings them to life. Prepare to be surprised, to be shocked, when writing; when a story’s going well it will write itself in mysterious ways. A character who seemed essential when the day’s writing began may well be dead by nightfall. Let that happen. Your first draft is your raw material which will need shaping, polishing, diminishing, aggrandising. Be bold in what you cast out. Take Quiller Couch’s advice to "murder all your darlings": if you rock back on your heels in admiration of a phrase or a paragraph, it’s probably indulgent and needs to go. Know that what seemed remarkable two weeks – two months – ago may have become pedestrian when you look at it again. Enjoy yourself.


A chilling love story with a twist as compelling as it is disturbing (Elle)

Haunting...will have you hooked from the very beginning. If you liked We Need to Talk About Kevin you'll love this (Harper's Bazaar)

Gripping, startling, striking, affecting (Independent on Sunday)

A chilling, darkly compelling portrait of an unimaginable crime (Psychologies) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and unpleasant 7 Jun 2008
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
I admired this book and the way that it is written, but I also disliked it intensely because the subject matter is so unpleasant. I read it because friends had liked it and I can see why they did, but at the same time I am sorry that I read it because I feel like it's the kind of book that will haunt me.

I found it difficult to find reviews that explain what the book is about, but it emerges very early in the novel so I don't feel it is a spoiler to say that it's about a young married couple who have an intensely close bond, who find themselves pregnant despite all their plans to avoid having children, and who then abuse, neglect and eventually kill their little girl. I just hated to read parts of the book, didn't want to know these people and felt quite unsatisfied with their inability to process any understanding of what they had done.

Every chapter of the book has a different narrator. Some parts of the story are told by Brendan and Sherilyn (the central couple) while others are written by people who had something to do with them: their family, case officer, neighbours, co-workers etc. Most contribute just their one chapter although the lead characters have more than one. It's an effective technique (although sometimes I wanted to stay with some of the narrators or visit them again) and Topolski brings each different voice to life very well. In an author's note at the end of the book, Topolski explains how she actually started the novel writing a chapter in the voice of the little girl, locked up and confused and I am very grateful that this was omitted. The book is more about the central relationship between Brendan and Sherilyn which is intriguing - they share some psychic connection but also withhold secrets from one another.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You call it madness, but I call it love." 12 Jan 2009
Brendan and Sherilyn Gutteridge love each other very much. So much that they don't need friends, or hobbies, or their families. So much that they don't really need a child. And then Sherilyn becomes pregnant.

Carol Topolski, the author of "Monster Love" is a psychotherapist and has, I would guess, seen many deviations on love in her professional career and this book, her first, takes as its subject a love that is so all encompassing that it excludes all others. A love so perfect it leads to monstrosity.

It's not an easy read, but it's a compelling one and structured in such a way that it avoids the obvious pitfalls of its subject matter. We find out very early on what the "monster" part of the title means and by abandoning the device of saving the gory details to the end, the story forces us to focus not on what happened but why. The story is written from the points of view of the different actors in the tale: those distantly involved like the neighbour who first suspects something is wrong, to Brendan and Sherilyn themselves. This multiple view point cleverly mirrors the case conferences that Topolski has no doubt been part of many times and prevents us, like professionals in the field, from drawing the usual, reflexive conclusions when we hear about crimes of this kind. There are also some lovely character studies, as Topolski precisely captures various people caught up in the case: the social worker is particularly good, as is Brendan's ex-boss and the book is worth reading just for that. But the meat of it is Brendan and Sherilyn and how they developed their perfect, deadly love. Their parents and step parents give us insight into the childhood events that shape them but it is left to the couple themselves to explain how and why they act as they do.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing 9 Sep 2008
By kehs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The storyline revolves around neighbours thoughts and feelings on an appalling murder committed by Sheralyn and Brendan Gutteridge. The follwing comment isn't a spoiler as the scenes come in the opening pages. This monsterous couple lock their four-year-old daughter Samantha in a cage and leave her to die without them feeling a shadow of remorse. When I read the harrowing passage about this little girl's death I thought I wouldn't be able to carry on but Topolski writes very fluidly and pulls you into the bewilderment that the community feel. The book fed on my own paranoia of how well do we ever know other people. It is a very disturbing tale that is now haunting me and I can't get the tragic images out of my mind. I did get a reprieve from the horrors it contains because the telepathic communion between the couple seemed a little far fetched . Thanks to that it took the edge off of the shocking storyline for me. I will look out for more by the author but hopefully she'll choose a less sensitve subject next time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling 28 Jan 2009
i was very dubious about reading this book,but very glad i did.the subject matter is quite sickening,and i think the author is very brave to have written this.i felt sorry for brendan and sherilyn but hatred at the same time.this book will not leave my thoughts for a very long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Killer Read 11 Feb 2008
Pick up any paper on any day and you will read that we live in a world inhabited by `Monsters'...they're everywhere ready to steal your children, rob your granny and of course kill at random in the most horrific the time these `Monsters' make it to print or on to our TV screens we struggle to believe they were ever really human at all...let alone capable of love.

Told through the voices of a rich array of characters you will be drawn into the wonderfully weaved web that is `Monster Love'. The story is spun around its main characters Brendan and Sherilyn, who on the surface personify pure enviable perfection. However underneath lies a deep dark secret that refuses to be silenced.

This brilliant debut novel by Carol Topolski is certainly not a light read, but even in the darkest places Topolski still manages to unearth beauty and even humour.

If this book doesn't challenge your views on the `Monster's' that we read about in papers and watch on our TV screens, it will most certainly have you twitching at your curtains and spying on your neighbours.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the darkest books I have ever read
This book is seriously not for the faint hearted. There were chapters that caused me to stop and consider whether I should read on as the descriptions were so shocking and graphic. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Carly
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking
what an amazing book, but a very disturbing story, do you really know your neigbours
Published 13 days ago by Larry the Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and credible-a book I will never forget
Okay, it's about child abuse. Horrific we all agree... However the author deals with the subject incredibly well and far from seeking sensationalism by labouring on the actual... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Emma
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Didn't enjoy this story, dark description of child abuse. Disturbing!
Published 21 days ago by Andrea Metcalfe
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth
This is an extremely disturbing book, I hated it because it drew attention to the fact that the subject matter could, and is happening "out there" somewhere. Read more
Published 3 months ago by mamma
1.0 out of 5 stars Contains graphic descriptions of child abuse
There is no other point to this story other than that. And if that's your bag, then God help you.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. R. L. Norton
1.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing subject but tedious
Only read three chapters of this book. Apart from the very unpleasant subject I found it quite tedious. There was no interaction between characters. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ruth Williamson
5.0 out of 5 stars Layers on layers
Excellent novel. The way the story was told from different points of view worked well and made it enjoyable to read, without being gimmicky. Read more
Published 14 months ago by C. Pillar
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating - but heart-breaking.
An excellent novel built up with intricate detail that enticed and engaged me instantly. Captivating, but the story itself is heart-breaking, real food for thought.
Published 14 months ago by princessbriarrose
1.0 out of 5 stars Very distressing and not at all enjoyable in any way
My best advice to those of you considering reading this is please don't! I know it very distressing and harrowing. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Katie Cox
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