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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently constructed.
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,...
Published 15 months ago by Liz Wilkins

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Story with an Important Message
There are some books you love for the prose and others you love for the characters. For me, this was neither. Liz Nugent is no poet, and most of the characters she created for this book were fairly flat; Oliver himself was a difficult character to warm to, though I did empathise with him, nevertheless - perhaps because I was the 'odd one out' at home; Barney seemed...
Published 4 months ago by CaSundara


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently constructed., 6 Mar. 2014
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unravelling Oliver (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. The juxtapositions between how they view Oliver and how he views himself are completely and utterly engrossing…as an intriguing look at one man’s psyche this works perfectly. I was completely and utterly unravelled myself.

I won’t say too much about the other characters you will meet along the way – they are all extraordinarily well drawn and as much as you learn about Oliver you will learn about them – and possibly fall in love with one or two. I know I did. And this has a great “finish” to it as well. Clever. Loved it.

As an intelligent psychological suspense novel, this is top notch. If you enjoy a book that gets to the heart of people then this one is for you. Highly Recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A man unravelled!, 6 Mar. 2014
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stayed up half the night..., 16 April 2014
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This is a gripping book. I'd intended to only read a couple of chapters but I found myself staying up for hours to finish it one go. It's not a thriller per se, but it certainly is thrilling.

The opening is shocking in its brutality. To start with domestic violence - and to have that violence told from the point of view of the wife-beater himself - is a daring and clever move. It would be remarkably easy from that point on to feel little but disgust for the eponymous Oliver. However, Nugent deftly weaves in other storylines, moving backwards and forwards through time and including scenes where you feel nothing but sympathy for him and his shocking upbringing. It's neither presented as a cliche or an excuse for his behaviour, which makes it work all the better. I found my emotions and opinions manipulated and twisted at every turn.

Unravelling Oliver is told from multiple viewpoints and each new voice rings true. I often find that novels which switch viewpoints in this manner irritate me because I get drawn into one character just as the author leaves off and switches to another. However, I didn't feel this when reading this book. Nugent times each switch perfectly so that as soon as you get to the end of one 'voice', you're dying to read the next one to find out what new information will be provided. This is so much more than a tale of abuse: at the heart there's a complex 'unravelling' not only of Oliver but of the plot and its affairs. The final revelation is gripping.

Now that I've finished it, I'm still not sure whether I'm repelled by Oliver or whether I want to give him a great big hug and tell him it's all going to be alright. I do know that I'll be on the lookout for more from Liz Nugent though!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling Oliver- perfect man, perfect monster, 12 Feb. 2014
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling Oliver is an excellent debut from Liz Nugent, 7 Mar. 2014
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Unravelling Oliver (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. Only Oliver knows why he chose to publish his hugely popular series of children's books under a different name. Was he ashamed of his illegitimate status? Did he want to forget where he came from? Eventually, the reader will learn the full truth of Oliver's life, and it is truly shocking.

Each voice in Unravelling Oliver is a complete character in their own right. Fully formed and with a strong voice that adds yet another perspective to this dark and complex story that is so elegantly written.

Unravelling Oliver is an excellent debut from Liz Nugent, I'm really looking forward to reading more from this very talented and gifted author.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classy Psychological thriller, 6 Mar. 2014
By 
Ismay1012 - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unravelling Oliver (Paperback)
‘Unravelling Oliver’ is the debut novel of Liz Nugent and what a wonderful novel it is. The story unfolds chapter by chapter with Oliver, his friends and acquaintances adding more to the story with each chapter, sometimes confirming what others have told, but retelling the story from their point of view.

The main character, Oliver, has been damaged by his sad boyhood, brought up in a boarding school without the love of his parents. He gradually pieces together information about his roots. His maternal family remained a mystery but his father is revealed to be an important man who is haunted by his mistakes and wants nothing to do with Oliver. It is little wonder that Oliver is cold and lacks empathy and eventually perpetuates his own story. However, despite these unhappy facts, Oliver remains a character that never endears himself to you. He is an egotist and is prepared to go to any lengths to make a better life for himself without heed for others.

The story starts with Oliver’s success. He is a talented author of children’s fiction. His series of books have made him wealthy beyond belief and he is very proud of his success. Married to Alice, a talented book illustrator, he has risen above his poor beginnings. When Alice returns from her holiday with her friend and neighbour in France, she is remote and obviously distressed. One night over supper she reveals what she has learnt, they argue and Oliver beats her so severely she is left in a coma. The remarkable story of what led Oliver to this action is full of surprises, suspense, shame, guilt, deception and subterfuge. It pulls no punches and is both thrilling and horrific. Oliver’s secret past is full of shameful acts. He is a merciless sociopath, distant and full of self-justification for his heinous actions.

I loved this well-written novel. It was a real gem, a classy psychological thriller that kept me reading late into the night and saw me waking early in order to finish the story to find out how it ended. I loved the twists and turns as the novel gathered momentum. I would recommend this novel without hesitation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful, literary piece of crime fiction, 20 Dec. 2014
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unravelling Oliver (Paperback)
Unravelling Oliver recently won the Irish Crime Novel of the year award. It could have easily won the literary novel award given its prose and style. Unlike most crime novels, where the central driver is usually a linear plot told from a single perspective and enhanced by strong characters, Unravelling Oliver is an in-depth character study told from multiple perspectives with a non-linear narrative. The unravelling of the title refers to both Oliver’s snapping and his fall from grace and to revealing the long run up to it that stretches back over his entire life. In this sense it is very much a form of psychological drama (rather than thriller, though it is full of gripping moments). The narrative is carefully constructed, each chapter told in the first person by Oliver or by those closest to him, layering in new elements to the story. And whilst it is clear what is coming next in some instances, their reveal is nonetheless shocking. I thought the tale was interesting whilst I was reading it, and though I enjoyed the prose and narrative I was not fully captivated, however in the subsequent couple of days it’s been rattling around in my head, kind of maturing after the fact. Overall, a thoughtful, literary piece of crime fiction, and definitely worth a read for those tiring of the genre’s usual conventions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Story with an Important Message, 14 Jan. 2015
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There are some books you love for the prose and others you love for the characters. For me, this was neither. Liz Nugent is no poet, and most of the characters she created for this book were fairly flat; Oliver himself was a difficult character to warm to, though I did empathise with him, nevertheless - perhaps because I was the 'odd one out' at home; Barney seemed somewhat caricaturist.

However, it's still a good story that illustrates just how deeply we are affected by our childhoods and shows just why no child should be left feeling unloved or uncared for. I wouldn't read it again, as there's no prose to swoon over, but I don't regret reading it and would consider reading this author again.

Personally, I don't think this book is worth anywhere near the current asking price of £8+ on Kindle!

3.5 Stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I didn't think learning about one person would be so interesting. But boy was I wrong", 30 May 2014
By 
AvidAbbie (Everywhere...) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Unravelling Oliver (Paperback)
We are first introduced to the protagonist, Oliver, on the first page. Where he has just hit his wife,
“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.”
He then goes on to provide a brief summary the circumstances of his and Alice's life, and what lead up to this event. He also tells us what happened just before, and just after the event.

Alice had originally agreed with Oliver to not have children, but after five years or so, she changed her mind, but Oliver still did not want any children... So he took precautions, without the consent of Alice.
“I couldn't depend on her to protect herself, so I took control. I made a ritual of bedtime cocoa with a little crushed pill as an added extra. Alice thought that was so romantic.”
Oliver is sly, and is very deceptive to Alice- Maybe leading the way for what's to come?...

Many other characters share their views and experiences of Oliver. One such is Alice's little brother, Eugene, who has additional needs. Where, he expresses his views of what a nasty person Oliver is.
“but Oliver is nice to me on my birthday and lets me play with his lighter that is shaped like an aeroplane in the shed in the garden but there is an accident and I am a very bad boy because I started a fire”

Eventually, all the characters lead up to why Oliver did what he did. We learn all about his childhood and adulthood, and everything in-between.

---SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH---
In the end, we learn that (This is a summary, so don't read if you plan on reading the book) Oliver's mother is African, but he was born white- It's because of this his father lives in shame of him, never acknowledging him, or paying him any good heed. Oliver then becomes very lonely and upset that his father never took time to take care of him. He then forms a relationship with a grandfather and grandchild who live in a vineyard. But when they tragically die in an uh... accident... he is left shocked and saddened. He then leaves Laura, who is pregnant with his child. She then later gives birth to the child after he left her, and realises the child is black. She then gives it up for adoption, and kills herself. He then meets Alice, who helps him publish his books because she illustrates them. But she gets too nosy, and realises that he plagiarised them from the grandfather. She then confronts him about it...

When I first started reading Unravelling Oliver, I didn't know what to expect, I mean, I like suspense, but I didn't think learning about one person would be so interesting. But boy was I wrong- I know, I know, sounds cheesy. But it's true.

As soon as I read the first page, I was a gonna, pulled right in to the web of Oliver. Throughout the book, I was enthralled. There were so many emotions pulled out of me- although, I didn't cry. But I don't cry that often over books. I wanted to learn more about Oliver, I wanted to know everything about him.

I also liked that he redeemed himself at the end, although none of it was his fault.

Unravelling Oliver is really well written, with it being constantly intriguing. It's at a fairly fast pace, without giving everything up at every turn. A really good plot, with good spacing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling Oliver, 13 April 2015
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
Oliver Ryan lives in Dublin with his wife Alice. Under the pen name of Vincent Dax, Oliver writes successful children’s books, which Alice illustrates. One night Oliver beats Alice so violently that she ends up in a coma. We learn of these shocking events at the very beginning of this novel and then, gradually, we hear from other people involved with either Alice or Oliver and discover what led to his violent outburst.

This is an unusual novel in that you begin by feeling revulsion at Oliver’s behaviour – his insistence that Alice did not have children for example, his arrogance, his controlling behaviour, which leads to Alice’s brother, who has learning difficulties, being put into a home – but, gradually, as you discover more and more about him, you feel sympathy towards the aggressor as well as the victim. It is difficult to review this book without giving away the plot, and I have no wish to do this. Suffice it to say that this is a clever, and unusual, thriller, in which your attitudes will change as you hear from all the characters involved; from Barney, who is in love with Alice, to Stanley, who was at St Finian’s with Oliver as a child, to Veronique, who ran a Bordeaux vineyard where Oliver spent a summer with friend Michaela and his sister, Laura. This is a tragic novel about the shadows of childhood and how they affect our adult lives. Moving, intense and an ideal choice for reading groups, which much to discuss.
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Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent (Paperback - 6 Mar. 2014)
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