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Unravelling Oliver Paperback – 6 Mar 2014

191 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Ireland (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844883094
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844883097
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


The compulsion to continue reading never wanes ... a persistently satisfying read. (Sunday Times)

A page-turning, one-sitting read from a brand new master of psychological suspense (Sunday Independent)

Formidable (Irish Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theatre and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written short stories for children and adults. Unravelling Oliver is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Liz Wilkins TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
Thank you to the publisher for the advance copy.

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the leafy 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 puts 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.

To say this book was gripping would be to put it mildly. And I don’t think I have seen a book so aptly titled in a long time. Unravelling Oliver is exactly right. Oliver and Alice seem to have the perfect marriage – he writes childrens books, she illustrates them, and a fair few people are envious of what they have together. Then one night for no apparent reason, Oliver beats Alice, severely and without mercy. But why? What exactly made him crack?

What follows is a compelling and comprehensive “unravelling” of the man behind the mask – told from various points of view, including Oliver’s, we begin to build a picture of the true nature of both the marriage and the people. As those that crossed Oliver’s path over the years tell their story you will be fascinated, sometimes horrified but always urged onwards, unable to look away.

This is terrific writing because there are many strands to this one – Oliver’s childhood, his formative relationships, background filled in by those who knew him.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Unravelling Oliver is one of those books that I knew I would love as soon as I started reading it.
‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’
These words written by Oliver about what he did to his wife on 12 November 2011 in Dublin. After I had read his words I was chilled, here appears to be a man with no remorse and no motive so what made Oliver batter his wife Alice so badly that she was left in a coma.

The publishers, Penguin Ireland, tell us; ‘Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith,’ and I can’t disagree.

In this tradition Liz Nugent has employed some of the characters that Oliver Ryan came into contact with during the five decades of his life to reveal small but telling details. Told as if they are giving interviews to the media as monologues, each character gives us a little more insight into Oliver’s character and the events that shaped his life. Barney who was Alice’s boyfriend before Oliver and met him the night he attacked Alice is the first to have his say but there are plenty of others who have encountered Oliver during his life. Throughout the book Oliver, and others who have met him, unwrap the things he thought he had kept hidden and unravel his life, so that as readers we get an insight into the why of this charismatic, but deeply flawed character.
The originality, cleverness and fantastic characters which peel back the layers of Oliver over the years along with evidence of previous events presented in one way by Oliver and another by alternative narrators was a sheer delight to read.

I am delighted that the publishers gave me a copy of this book in return for my honest review as I wouldn’t have wanted to miss meeting Oliver Ryan!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By liselott weidar on 12 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
Unravelling Oliver is a perfectly handmade title for this intriguing story.
Liz Nugent took me straight to the kitchen on South Dublin avenue where I first met Oliver. He had just committed the worst crime a man can do to his wife, or any woman.
Oliver was more surprised by his actions than Alice, his wife. The sweet Alice had a completely different character to Oliver. She preferred to be in the background both in their marriage and their joint success while Oliver with his look and charisma was the one in the spotlight.
'She just lay on the floor holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent.'
Oliver went to get his coat from its peg in the hall and left...

There is a suspense all the way through out the book and all the characters are equally interesting. If someone buys the book by its cover they will have a lovely surprise. I did! :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lincs Reader TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."

The first sentence of Unravelling Oliver is the shocking introduction to Oliver Ryan, one of the most disturbing, dangerous and manipulative characters that I've ever read about.

From that very first sentence, the reader knows just what Oliver is capable of, but we don't really know why he has attacked his faithful and loyal wife Alice. Why would successful author Oliver (writing as Vincent Dax) brutally attack the woman who has been a perfect wife to him? The woman who has lovingly illustrated his books for children, only adding to their success? Why?

Liz Nugent has expertly crafted this short, but stunning novel by weaving together the first-hand stories of the people who know Oliver best. Told in separate chapters, these characters are as fully formed as Oliver himself and each one of them has a story to tell. Each one of them appears shocked by what Oliver has done, but it soon becomes clear as they recount their memories that Oliver was never quite the person he wanted to appear to be.

Unravelling Oliver could be renamed 'The Sins of the Fathers', for ultimately Oliver's character has been formed by his dysfunctional relationship with his father. In fact, there was no relationship. Sent off to boarding school at a very early age and then ignored for the rest of his life, Oliver was a sad and lonely child who struggled to interact with anyone. Being able to see his father's home from the school window was torture for him, especially as he witnessed his father's loving relationship with his new wife and new son.

Oliver as a man was enigmatic and charismatic, and successful. He had many admirers, people who loved him, who wanted to be like him.
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