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The Beloveds Paperback – 2 May 2018
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In 'The Beloveds' we are drawn in to the twisted mind of successful art gallery owner Elizabeth 'Betty' Stash, whose jealousy and hatred of her younger sister (and to a slightly lesser degree, every single person who crosses her path) is nothing short of a manic obsession. Betty is a psychopath. She's manipulative, narcissistic and so very, very clever. At first Betty appears to have some social filters; she knows when to mask her heinous feelings, when to plot her cruel and shocking tactics and how to maintain self control, but these social skills begin to slip away as the story progresses. Only occasionally does her veneer of aloofness slip and when it does her mania is revealed. Forgive the cliche (Betty can't bear them) but the tension is literally on every page.
The writer has created an unnerving story about the dark side that exists in some sibling relationships, maternal favouritism and family pecking order.
If you're looking for a compelling and absorbing read - especially book club members who fail to reach the final pages - this is the book for you. There will be lots to talk about!
The writing is insanely captivating. We know that Betty is deranged but somehow Lindley has us siding with her? From the very start, I felt contempt towards Gloria and Henry, when really I should have been looking out for them. Without giving anything away, there is a crucial scene around halfway through where things don’t seem to be going as planned, which should really be a good thing considering Betty is the bad guy, but I actually found myself exclaiming “oh no!” and hoping the plan carried on as expected. I was siding with this evil, jealous sister because Lindley makes her voice so witty, intelligent and charming.
This book also featured my favourite type of narrator but in female form – she’s so malicious. I feel like she was even better than some of the others I love due to her pure hatred of everything. Patrick Bateman is a psychopath but he gets nervous and cares about what people think of him. William Heming is a creep but he makes an effort to be liked by his peers. Betty Stash cares about nothing other than her beloved house. Although her hard demeanour sometimes cracks when she shows emotions like guilt or love, which just makes her feel more like a real person.
A couple of the more mediocre reviews for this book state it’s a bit too long and drags in places, but I found it’s pacing perfect for the meat of the story. Similar to American Psycho, there is a reasonable amount of what appears to be simply banal filler, but it works so well in this type of book.
As for the story in this novel, honestly, it’s an unoriginal plot – of one person being insanely jealous of another – however, it is wholly original at the same time. Rather than a fixation on the person, on their lover, on their life, Betty is instead fixated on a house. She doesn’t care about money or having friends or even being in love, all she needs is her childhood home and she’ll be happy.
I can’t really say much more about this story without spilling out all its beautiful secrets. All I can say from here is that if you like a book with a slow pace, a mentally deranged, sinister narrator, beautiful writing, and a just-on-the-wrong-side-of-disturbed storyline – pick this up!!
Elizabeth is a fascinating character. Narcissistic, bitter and conniving, she seethes with resentment on the page but speaks and acts like a robot to the outside world. Her obsessive resentment towards her younger, spoiled sister Gloria is deliciously spiteful and makes for very compelling reading despite also being somewhat uncomfortable in how unfeeling she is. Gloria is the sickeningly sweet Beloved, a vapid, self-centred creature who manipulates everyone around her with artificial sweetness, something Elizabeth cannot hope to replicate and thus despises. Elizabeth is an excellently-written character, manipulative and vengeful but at times you can't help but want to see what she'll do next and her assessments of how shallow and ridiculous everyone seems to her is disturbingly persuasive.
However, the ending was a real disappointment. The book simmers with tension of someone who feels they are not being given their due and will go to any lengths to get it, but unfortunately the final few pages are an enormous anti-climax. I can only hope the author plans a sequel, because it seems a shame to waste such an excellently venomous character on such an ambiguous note. Also despite Elizabeth's growing ease with gaslighting and her continuous alcohol abuse, there isn't a satisfying payoff for her numerous behaviour problems and it becomes frustrating to continue waiting for her to do something.