Top positive review
If it wasn't for the obsession with sex this would be five stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 November 2019
Unnerved doesn't begin to sum up how I feel having finished this book. Also kind of needing a shower... although less so that some I have read - *cough* Gone Girl *cough*. This is one of those books that makes you doubt yourself and whether what you think you know is actually true. I found the atmosphere to be realistically creepy and the situation really felt for Lowen as she becomes steadily more paranoid, never quite sure that it isn't her mind playing tricks on her. The multi-faceted lies and manipulations are excellently shaped and laid out.
I'm not going to say that I enjoyed the diary excerpts; they are deeply, deeply disturbing. However, they felt real and whilst I certainly couldn't empathise with the person behind them, they are very good at forcing you to see through her eyes at the world. It is frightening at points and it is easy to get sucked into the fear and the disgust that Lowen is feeling. Characterisations are generally quite well done, although the gratuitous and constant sex became tedious rather quickly. I felt like I was getting to know all of the characters, with all their faults and whilst I wouldn't want to go on holiday with any of them, they definitely felt real. Each and every one of these characters is flawed and each and every one feels utterly real.
It is also a realistic glimpse at the very nature of grief and loss without ever becoming preachy, with all three adult characters grieving for someone close to them in very different ways. The concept of grieving for someone who you don't particularly like all that much is also woven into the narrative quite well, and how that gives a different but no less raw experience. I did however think more could have been done with the child; at times he seemed to be there just for the cuteness factor and his reactions and interpretations of what is going on could have been utilised to a far greater extent. I liked the kid, but that's all that I can say about him. He's in therapy, then he's not in therapy, he doesn't mention the girls and he loves his mother and he's back in therapy. There's no emotional pull with him though, it's all surface platitudes.
A full star gets knocked off however due to the constant use of sex as a blunt implement throughout this novel. It's almost every other page and it got really boring. If it's not Verity being screwed by Jeremy in her diary, it's Lowen thinking about screwing Jeremy or actually screwing Jeremy. I'm no prude and I have no issue with sexual content in books, but the over-reliance on it here really did work against it. I could see that it was part of how Hoover is building Verity's character, but it did very little for me. It's a pity because otherwise I flew through this dark and nasty book at a rate of knots, desperate to find out just what was going on and just as confused and horrified as Lowen.