Almost Love by Louise O’Neill – REVIEW
If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of Asking for It. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult.
When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
“Sarah was afraid that he might have broken her and she was afraid that she might have been the one who asked to be broken.”
I won an ARC of this book from Quercus but I’d also preordered a signed copy from Waterstones as I loved Asking For It so much. Where Asking For It was aimed at a YA audience, Almost Love is definitely more of an adult offering due to its ambiguity and nuanced portrayals of adult relationships. The characters and events aren’t as clear-cut, and it’s much harder to label a character as right or wrong. The lines are blurred but that’s what makes this book linger long after you finish reading. I’m still trying to decide what I thought about Sarah and Matthew, and questioning their motivations and intentions.
“Her body was there to be looked at, to be admired by others, and, as such, it would never entirely belong to her.”
I’ve seen a lot of comments about how unlikeable Sarah is but I think that’s beside the point. Her story is relevant and surely that’s the most important thing. A lot of her actions are reprehensible and it’s certainly hard to root for her but it seems like Sarah hates herself because she’s ashamed of her choices. She’s crippled by insecurity and fear, and often takes her feelings out on others. But haven’t we all done that? We’ve all got a bit of Sarah in us and I think that’s what makes her so engaging. The flashbacks to her relationship with Matthew portray an obsessive relationship with little respect between partners. Whereas the rape in Asking For It offered a clear case of good vs bad, the way Matthew treats Sarah (and Sarah’s acceptance of this behaviour) is a much more blurred situation.
“I felt dizzy with wanting. Wanting him, wanting sex, wanting money, wanting to feel happy, wanting my life to finally begin. I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was that I wanted. I wanted so much.”
One aspect I found particularly relevant was the class anxieties that haunt Sarah. The disparity in wealth between Oisin and Sarah causes Sarah to behave in ways that I actually related to. As usual, Sarah pushes it too far though and slowly destroys their relationship. It’s as though she hates herself so much that she doesn’t think she deserves even the slightest bit of happiness. Overall, this was a compelling read and I read it straight through in less than four hours as it was completely engaging. It’s taken me a little while to collect my thoughts together though, which is why this review has taken so long to write.
|About the Author
Louise O’ Neill is from Clonakilty, in west Cork. After graduating with a BA in English Studies at Trinity College Dublin, she went on to complete a post-grad in Fashion Buying at DIT. Having spent a year in New York working for Kate Lanphear, the senior Style Director of ELLE magazine, she returned home to Ireland to write her first novel.