April 15, 2011

Whatever You Love - Louise Doughty

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.


Unknown said...

I din't really like the second half of this book and I found the first half very upsetting. I can see the writing is very skilled, but I'm pleased it didn't make the shortlist.

Simon (Savidge Reads) said...

Your first paragraph puts my thoughts down on the page really clearly. I have my thoughts scheduled to come up in the next few weeks and might give it a retweak quoting you as its exactly how I felt. Great read but not a orange winner.

Karen said...

Hi Jackie - I think the book was almost like two different ones in a way - I wish she had kept on the track that she established in the first half - even though it was so traumatic.

Hi Simon - It sounds like there are a few of us who feel that same way!

Lou said...

Whatever You Love was one of highly anticipated books this year but after reading several reviews I'm a little unsure if it will live up to my expectations. Great review though!

Karen said...

Hi Lou - yes, it does seem as though a few people have been disappointed with this one.

Buried In Print said...

I wasn't disappointed, not at all! Not that I enjoyed those later aspects of the novel -- I did find that part of the story upsetting.

But it made sense to me, based on the problems that Laura was having, coping with the loss she'd experienced.

Her actions weren't rational -- and readers are immersed in her perspective, so we don't have a clear view of how unhinged she might seem from other angles -- but they were believable to me, rooted in her experiences and struggles.

It was one of the earlier books in this year's Orange Reading for me, but I was quite impressed and engaged with this novel.

Anonymous said...

I felt this same way. I don't even know how to feel. I could understand Laura on one hand, and then on the other she was a complete and total psychopath. But then, how I would feel if my daughter was killed and my husband was a cheating-bastard who drug out our marriage.

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