Whatever You Love was named on the Orange Prize Long list for 2011 but I see it has not made it to the short list. I'm not sure how I feel about that - I think this book deserves a lot of praise and recognition but on the other hand I'm not sure that it is "short list worthy" (whatever that may entail!).
Whatever You Love is the story of Laura, her relationship with David and their two young children, Betty and Rees, and the moment her world comes crashing down when 9 year old Betty is killed after being hit by a car.
This book is intense in topic and feeling - the raw grief being demonstrated by Laura following Betty's sudden death felt empathic, gut wrenching and real. I have worked with families in a hospital setting following the sudden death of someone they loved and I don't think I have ever read a piece of fiction that more accurately captured that intense grief and pain that is expressed soon after the death.
The novel follows Laura trying to function in her day to day life after Betty's death. David had left the relationship some time ago (not in an amicable way) and has a new partner and baby - Laura is still grieving the loss of their relationship and "perfect family" when Betty's death occurs. Laura is also focused on gathering more information about the person who was driving the car that hit Betty and exacting some sort of revenge on them.
It was this part of the book that didn't ring as true for me. I could certainly empathise with and understand Laura's feeling of wanting to gain revenge for her loss - but the way her character went about it felt a little false - everything in the book up until this point had felt so true to life.
Aside from this disappointment I still found this book extremely moving and rich - not an easy read in terms of the feelings it can bring up but certainly a rewarding one.