Title: Is This Love?
Author: C. E. Riley
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Publication Date: 4th August 2022
Did you mean to marry me?
Did you understand the vows that we took?
J’s wife has left, and J is trying to understand why. How could someone you loved so much, who claimed to love you once, just walk away? How could they send divorce papers accusing you of terrible things, when all you’ve ever done is tried to make them happy?
Narrated by J in the days, weeks and months after the marriage collapses, and interspersed with the departed wife’s diary entries, Is This Love? is an addictive, deeply unsettling, and provocative novel of deception and betrayal, and passion turned to pain. As the story unfolds, and each character’s version of events undermines the other, all our assumptions about victimhood, agency, love and control are challenged – for we never know J’s gender. If we did, would it change our minds about who was telling the truth?
I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Is This Love? and I’m pleased to say that it entirely lived up to my high expectations. The story is largely narrated by J, whose marriage has broken down. We, as readers, are taken right into the heart of this relationship to dissect what happened and who, if anyone, was to blame. J’s narrative is interspersed with the wife’s diary which recounts a very different perspective and we are left to decide who to trust.
I found Is This Love? incredibly compelling. It feels unsettling, almost voyeuristic in one sense and yet I couldn’t put it down. The reader is never told J’s gender and this gives every interaction, argument and incident more than one interpretation. I constantly had to consider whether knowing J’s gender would change the way I feel about the relationship and if it did change my response, why? This is an unflinching examination of a marriage ending which makes for sometimes uncomfortable reading. However it is one hundred percent worth sitting in that discomfort and unease to read this brutal, thought provoking and darkly fascinating book.
I very kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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