Title: Our Little Cruelties
Author: Liz Nugent
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Publication Date: 21st January 2021 (Paperback)
Three brothers are at the funeral. One lies in the coffin.
Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother’s unequal love. As men, the competition continues – for status, money, fame, women …
They each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead.
But which brother killed him?
I always think family relationships and sibling bonds in particular are perfect fodder for an intense psychological thriller and this tale of the Drumm brothers certainly proves this to be the case. The story follows three brothers throughout their lives until one of them is murdered. The relationship between them is full of friction, competition, jealousy and often cruelty but there is also an undeniable bond keeping them in each others orbit.
Our Little Cruelties is not a book full of characters you will fall in love with and root for, it is very much an unflinching and pretty brutal look at the less palatable side of human beings and the way they treat those closest to them. The book is primarily split into three sections, each one following incidents in the lives of each brother. We sometimes see the same events played out from different perspectives and we also slowly fill in the blank spots in each brothers recollection. The incidents are not in chronological order – the timeline jumps around with each new chapter and I absolutely loved this. It means that the reader is able to build a picture gradually of each brothers psyche and behaviour over the entire course of the book and begin to understand how things ended the way they did. None of the brothers are particularly likeable. For William and Brian in particular this is perhaps an understatement as they are both pretty awful human beings. The eldest brother William is, in my view, the very worst type of man and I found myself despising him whilst reading his part of the story yet totally unable to look away. There is something innately fascinating about a terrible person narrating their own version of events and how totally unaware they are of their own narcissism. Brian, the middle child is less overtly awful than William but still seems blind to anyone’s suffering or experiences apart from his own. The youngest brother, Luke, is the only one I really felt any empathy for. He suffers from serious mental health issues throughout his life and I found his chapters deeply compelling and also achingly sad at times. The depiction of someone suffering from a serious mental health condition feels so vividly real and deadly accurate. All three brothers add to the overall picture of a family that seems to be the very antithesis of what a family should be.
I absolutely loved Our Little Cruelties and raced through it to find out which brother ended up dead. I’ve never read a book by Liz Nugent before but this certainly won’t be my last! As soon as I finished it I immediately went and ordered a couple of Nugent’s previous books, so impressed was I by the tense and brutal writing. This is not a cheerful book, it is so full of deceit and betrayal which is at times deeply unpleasant to read but I think it really taps into the fact that sometimes no one can hurt you more than the ones you grew up with. The three brothers and their relationships with both others and with themselves are so ultimately driven by their childhood and in particular by a mother who perhaps should never have had children. The entire family and their dynamic is kind of like watching a car crash you cannot look away from. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is razor sharp, incisive, intelligently written and genuinely unputdownable.
Thank you so much to Ellie Hudson for inviting me on the blog tour. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.