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Whatever You Love
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on 24 March 2017
For some reason I’m not sure about, I had the impression that this book was going to be about revenge. What a delicious subject for a novel, I thought, imagining lots of angst, misplaced anger and several botched attempts at getting back at the person who has (in this case, literally) caused you grief. But no, a good three-quarters of Doughty’s book is comprised of extraneous details - principally Laura’s relationships – with her estranged husband (did they ever divorce? I don’t remember) and her children, so that by page 200+, I was thoroughly fed up with the asinine chatter of Laura’s children and her children’s little friends. It’s not until page 258 that an incident takes place that one feels the first stirrings of revenge, and I have to say, I found it electrifying: I hadn’t seen that coming. Put simply, though, this book has too much padding. In terms of comparison, “Apple Tree Yard” is way ahead.
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on 24 September 2015
I've got to admit: I'm a pretty fussy reader. No matter the plot, if a book isn't also beautifully written, I just can't do it. This book is just super.

Like Gillian Flynn's 'Dark Places', 'Whatever You Love' combines a really satisfying narrative with superbly weighted writing full of precise observations of human nature. I spend ages hunting for the right books, often downloading samples which disappoint within a few paragraphs, generally because they drip with hackneyed phrases and lazy imagery. I'll now be seeking out other books by Louise Doughty - this is quality stuff.
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on 19 February 2017
Watched Apple Tree Yard on tv and was expecting great things from this book buy the same author but was disappointed. The death of Laura's daughter is very sad but the book does drag on and the last third is ridiculous as if the author decided oops better hurry up and finish this any old how!. The scenes with Mr A at Laura's house are especially bad and cringe worthy. Can't see anyone being charged with murder on such flimsy "evidence" either.
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on 29 March 2014
I found this book a bit of a mixed bag, really. I liked it, it kept me reading, but I didn’t fully buy into it I suppose. The structure is interesting and it’s nicely paced; it’s not full of suspense but neither is it predictable. But – for a story based on something incredibly sad – it’s not as moving as it might have been and the characters didn’t grab me and draw me in.

Right at the start of the book (so this isn’t a spoiler), Laura finds out her little girl Betty has died in a car accident. We also learn very quickly that Laura has another child, a young son called Rees, and that she is divorced from their father David. David now has a new baby with his new partner. This is significant because Whatever You Love is made up of two narratives: before (the story of Laura and David, of everything leading up to their divorce) and after (the story of Laura without Betty). These two narratives feel quite separate for a long time, but converge slightly unexpectedly once Laura discovers the identity of the person who killed her daughter. I appreciated the unpredictability of the story, but I did find the way things tie together a little contrived, slightly far-fetched and also slightly unresolved.

Laura is a reasonably interesting protagonist – I liked the ‘before’ narrative as a technique for showing the woman she was before grief defined her (and also for painting a picture of Betty, who leaps off the page in many of the brief passages that flashback to before her death), and Louise Doughty’s depiction of the changing shape of that grief is interesting. Laura is, of course, devastated to lose her little girl, but it is a sadness that soon shrinks to make room for anger and resentment, and a desire for revenge. She finds herself thinking uncharacteristically nasty and mean thoughts and feels increasingly isolated. She is angry at herself for letting the loss of one child affect her ability to parent her remaining child, but she is also angry at David for being able to seemingly set aside his grief and be a dad to his two sons. And she is angry at the person who took her child away from her and destroyed her already broken family. As the novel progresses, though, she explores this anger and realises that perhaps it isn’t as new and simple as she had assumed. I found this evolution believable and compelling.

Other aspects of Laura were less compelling. Her relationship with David doesn’t ring true to me; the things she claims to feel (or have felt) for him don’t match up with her behaviour. This could be deliberate on the part of the author, designed to further illustrate the scope and impact of Laura’s grief, but I’m not sure. I also didn’t buy Laura’s assumptions about and reaction to the hate mail she receives: I felt she was being at best naive but more likely willingly ignorant and it seemed to me like a plot device (related to my comment about the tying up of different strands being slightly contrived).

Actually my biggest gripe with the book is a very specific scene involving Laura and Mr A. I don’t want to say much about this and risk any spoilers, but if you read the book you’ll know when you get there. It seemed unnecessary and was more than unpredictable; it was incongruent with the image I’d built up of Laura. It was also quite unpleasant to read – unfortunately I think that’s my over-riding memory of Whatever You Love, which is a shame I think as it will probably put me off re-reading it in future.

Overall, it’s a good book. The structure is good and keeps you reading. Some of the characters show real promise, they’re just a little unconvincing around the edges. It’s not really about a mother’s desire for revenge on her daughter’s killer; rather it’s about a wife’s love affair with, marriage to, divorce from and subsequent relationship with her daughter’s father. So it might not be the story you expect from the blurb, but it’s a perfectly readable story nonetheless.
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on 29 October 2017
Enjoyed this book; it's very different from Apple Tree Yard, but it had me intrigued and interested to the end. The subject matter could be quite harrowing for some people as it is about the loss, through and accident, of a child. Well written and gripping throughout.
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on 26 June 2012
Laura has never had an easy life, but it gets dramatically worse when she learns of her young daughter's death caused by a hit-and-run driver.

Despite the macabre topic of this book, it was an easy and good read. Not all the events took place chronologically, so it was nice to feel that as the reader you were challenged to piece the story together.

Not having dealt with anything half as traumatic as the subject matter of this book (and obviously hope never to have to) I felt that the way Laura, the main character, dealt with the events was plausible and credible. She did things that were shocking, she did things that were repulsive and she also did things that were mean. But never once did I think: she wouldn't do that.

I thought that the way in which the author wrote about the relationships was fascinating. The most interesting was the relationship between Laura and David (the father of young Betty) and how the power of emotions led them to deal with this trauma in different ways.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 May 2011
This book starts with the police turning up at Laura's door to tell her that her daughter Betty has died. It is a brutal start and the main theme of the book is Laura dealing with her loss, but this book is so much more than that. Part 1 of the book details Laura's early relationship with her now ex-husband David, the scenes are well written the lust she felt for him leaps off the pages and it is soon apparant that this book is also about Laura losing David to Chloe, his new wife.

This book is so well written I found myself completely immersed in Laura's emotions, she still dislikes her daughter's best friend's mother but accepts that there is none more two-faced than the mothers at the school gate, Laura obsesses over previous veiled insults, grief does not turn her into a non-person. Laura wants to know more about the man who killed her daughter, Laura wants revenge. As the book weaves between the past, before Betty died, and after, we learn more about David's infidelity the break down of their marriage and Laura's brave attempts to carry on.

This book has the ability to make us assess the darkness that can lurk in all of us, how would you feel if two of the people you loved with a passion were taken away from you?
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2011
Laura, a single mother of two young children, loses her daughter Betty in a hit and run acccident. We learn this right at the beginning of the book and are brought immediately into the midst of her grief. The book is in four parts, each entitled before and after and in these we learn more about Laura's world, how she met her husband, how she lost him to his mistress Chloe and how she copes with the death of her daughter.

This is a very moving book which was very well written. The author describes the processes of grief very well indeed and you find yourself having great sympathy for Laura. The description of the book suggests that it is about Laura's revenge on the driver but although this is part of the book, there is much more to it than that. In fact the interactions she has with the driver, Mr A were a let down and for me pulled the book down from five stars to four. I found this part of the novel quite unbelievable. However the depiction of grief especially in relation to the breakdown of her marriage and the descriptions of her relationship with Betty are vivid and moving. I found it very readable and quite compelling. Recommended.
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on 10 July 2014
The story opens with the news that Laura and David’s nine year old daughter, Betty, has been knocked over and killed as she made her way back from school. We learn this on the first page. Laura is the narrator. The story explores the impact that Betty’s death has on Laura and those around her. It is written in first person so immediately we get a sense of Laura’s anguish and confusion. Her pain is palpable. We are privy to her thoughts as she looks back to the events that led up to the tragedy. Her relationship with David is also examined. Another hook is introduced early on when a reference is made to an anonymous letter. It turns out that Laura has been receiving these sinister letters for some time. Slowly as the fog of pain starts to clear Laura learns who was responsible for the death of her child. The reader is taken on Laura’s journey as she seeks answers and ultimately revenge.
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on 19 February 2017
I feel like I have lived in this story for the last few days, I have had the child taken away from me and all that has occurred to this family. I read this after watching apple tree yard and, loving both, I'm hoping iv found a new favourite author. I love the way the book is written and how she involves you so much in the story that you feel like you are actually living it. Beautifully written
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