September 12, 2011

Whatever You Love (kill).

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty

I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to do this review.
So, let me start with the Quick and Dirty before I even go into the melo-drama of it.  This book is a galley from Harper Perennial, but was originally published in England by Faber & Faber.  It was on the long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction and also received the 2010 Costa Novel Prize.  I had no idea about any of this when I picked it to read from Harper Perennial, it just said, “a book you can’t put down” on the back, and if it’s not a murder mystery, I love a book I can’t stop reading.  Literally, if I can eat your words for breakfast, lunch and dinner, maybe a brief snack at three o’clock when my stomach starts embarrassing me with its baritone…we can totally work out a time and a place.
I get it from my father (the incessant reading, I mean…in case you’re already lost)- it’s in my genes, runs through the roots of my family tree.
Here is an interview with Louise Doughty.
Here is Louise Doughty’s website.
I think she has an oval, sad face for an author.  I think more recently author’s have turned to “cheesing” in their book jackets like they went to Sears and a butter-belly of a man held up small, jangling toys to get them to smile and look like they have just written the most raucous sex novel and had a wild tromp with the main character themselves.  (See, my all time favorite – totally sarcastic – Jodi Picoult).  However, Louise is dignified.  What else can we expect from a woman with the name Louise anyhow?  I believe she should be drinking tea with the British Parliament and enjoying a quick round of croquet on the grounds.  That’s just me, personally, inserting my unwarranted commentary.
Regardless of whether she drowns in green tea or not, this is her sixth novel.  I’ve never actually heard of her before (I think it’s because her book covers look like Patti Callahan Henry book covers and those books always depress me from their multi-emotional love stories and so I avoid at all costs when carousing the shelves of Barnes and Noble, pointer finger extended, brushing the book cracks.  I think it’s safe to say though, that when your book gets reviewed in Financial Times you’ve made it.  I never knew that Mr. Money-bags Moustache was interested in “gripping, and devastatingly efficient prose”
I think you can tell from the last few paragraphs I am blatantly ignoring this review.
I’m putting it off.
I’m slowing my pace.
I’m dressing up as a tortoise, I’ve got the trash can lid strapped to my back.
etc, etc.
I guess it’s time now though, time to explain the nothingness I felt at this book’s completion.  I don’t honestly know how to feel.  So many things just happened to me.  I was so on the side of the main character, Laura, and so gung-ho for her battle against the world, and her battle for “Whatever she Loves” and then in the end, I’m forced into this notion that she could be a complete psychopath.  I’ve thrown a water bottle before, I know how that happens.  One second, your calm and composed, the next you’ve busted your knee open on a rock and you need to smash something over someone’s head – completely understandable (right?)…
Sometimes love may take us down roads that no logical person can force us out of.  It’s like getting lost in the woods with a giant knife, but you’re a vegetarian….do you do the unthinkable?  (Slice slowly a tree branch, duh. Vegetarians are also tree huggers people, COME ON).
In an effort, to collect myself, and my emotional belongings back from these characters, (that would be at least three suitcases and a jewelry box) I’ve been reading other reviews to give clarity on where I should put my faith in a book written this way.  I think I was personally offended by the majority of these, especially this one:

“If I was going to recommend a light, entertaining read, something that goes down easily without having to think about it too much, I’d suggest this one. Louise Doughty’s ninth novel, Whatever You Love, isn’t high-brow literature by any stretch of the imagination, but it is accessible and enjoyable, and I suspect when it’s released in trade paperback size it will do very nicely sales wise, thank-you very much.” by Kimbofo

While I didn’t think the writing was exceptional, or required many high-lighter sticky notes, I didn’t think this was a “light, or easy” read “by any stretch of the imagination.”  It definitely is accessible in the way that you think you could maybe murder someone, or rob a bank if you had too..and it’s enjoyable if you like a novel that you can’t stop reading, but includes major emotional downfalls and disturbing, “what-ifs” about break ups.
I think my problem with this book, and all of a sudden everything related to it, is that I went in thinking this was a grief story.  It’s told from the perspective of Laura, who has two children she is raising alone because her thrill-seeking, good-for-nothing husband, David, has been having an affair with Chloe (a woman who looks like a angelic mouse).  Can you tell whose team I’m on?
However, the second half of the book becomes psychological thriller.  So, here’s the thing: your daughter is killed in a hit & run, and your husband has left you in the last year for a mousier blonde woman, and all of a sudden you turn …
You just turn.  That was the end of that sentence.  I can’t give away anything that Laura does after this, but it’s all so unexpected and all so raw.  And I’m reading this book, half-thinking-“no one could ever do that, right?  That’s the unthinkable, she’s crossed major lines, had many party fouls here,” but then the other half is saying-“I could do that, I could take him upstairs, I could carry a knife, maybe I could even throw someone over a cliff if my child was killed, and my husband was a cheating bastard.”
I just don’t know how to feel.
How are you supposed to feel when you understand someone’s built-up rage, but it breaks all your theories on your own moral code?
Let me let someone else just review this book for you.

I recommend this book.  I want to know how everyone else feels about it, honestly.  So, let me know when you finish and we’ll start a book club – and drink green tea.  Maybe the ghost of Laura can join us.
11 comments so far.

11 responses to “Whatever You Love (kill).”

  1. The novel embodies conflict, doesn’t it. Such a draining (but impressive) work. (And thanks for the link to my response to it: I completely understand how torn you’re feeling about the read.)

    • Cassie says:

      Anytime! I thought you handled it well so I posted a link to you, incase anyone couldn’t understand my ramblings.
      I can definitely agree it was draining – completely draining, but I couldn’t put it down.

  2. Caroline says:

    How nice that you like the name of my blog. Thanks.
    I did exactly the same as you, I read other reviews just to sort out what I was feeling.
    For me this wasn’t an easy read, it made me feel very uncomfortable from the beginning.
    For one reason or the other I did expect a psychlogical thriller and not only a story about grief.
    What disturbed me a bit but I didn’t write it in my review is the fact that I thought she was grieving more because of the loss of her husband than because of the loss of her daughter.
    When you look at it closely, the whole bunch of people, the three women plus the husband are highly dysfunctional.

    • Cassie says:

      Ugh! I completely, completely, completely agree. There were times when I thought, “wow she loves her daughter” and other times I was like HE LEFT YOU, GET OVER IT…
      You’re so right. She was grieving the husband and only the daughter for the reason that she was a piece of him…

  3. I need to put this book on my to-read list, it sounds intriguing. But also because I love green tea and I would love to drown in it while book clubbing with you.

  4. It DOES sound intriguing. But I think I’m scared to read it! What a great review style you have, Cassie! I was absorbed in what you had to say, the whole time from start to finish. This is my first visit here. I’ll be back! (linked from She Writes).
    Michael Ann

    • Cassie says:

      Thanks so much, Michael Ann (love that name) and LOVE that your a pre-school teacher!! I’m in a child development class right now and my teacher is totally pro-early childhood education teachers and so I’m just so thankful for you! I prefer teenagers, but what you’re doing is awesome.
      And congrats on your Leibster award! YAY!
      I think you should give the book a try though, it was definitely….something. Just not quite sure what yet. I’m still stewing on it, to be honest. 🙂 If you do, please let me know what you think!
      And just thank you for your kind words about my review/writing style. It’s always good to hear that stuff, I’m blushing.

  5. I found your blog via a BBAW recommendation (I now forget the blogger who suggested you, I’m sorry!) but I’m desperately grateful — this review was marvelous. Hilarious, too, and telling, and you hit upon the things I care about when I’m deciding whether to read a book or not. Brava!

    • Cassie says:

      Thank you, thank you! I’m glad to be found. I’m also excited I’m being recommended.
      YAY! I’m looking at your blogger right now, and I SO want to read Ivan and Misha
      And you make it sound so good, I’m pumped. 🙂
      PS. Your “about me” is awesome. I like the occasional werewolf too.

  6. Ivan and Misha was so good. Normally, too many quirky secondary characters annoy me but in this case, the characters felt real rather than quirky-for-quirky’s-sake. It was marvelous.

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Hi, I’m Cass

I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.

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