Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Review: 'My Absolute Darling' by Gabriel Tallent

I love reading because books take you other places. They let you explore the world, transport you to other moments in time and into the minds of different people. There are books that bring you joy, take you on a moonlight stroll through the pleasant valleys of life. But there are also books that drag you down to the darker regions of life, the depravity and despair of some people's lives. And those books are just as powerful and necessary. My Absolute Darling is one of those latter books and it is an unforgettable read. Thanks to 4th Estate and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 29/08/2017
Publisher: 4th Estate; Harper Collins
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl's heart-stopping fight for her own soul. 
‘You think you’re invincible. You think you won’t ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin, and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.’ 
At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall;That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it;That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world.And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. 
She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school;Why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see;Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever doneAnd what her daddy will do when he finds out … 
Sometimes strength is not the same as courage.Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape.Sometimes surviving isn't enough.
Some books are terrifying and My Absolute Darling is one of those books. It is deeply chilling and psychologically tense. It also seems to have no true heroes but only villains of different shades of evil. It's not a very optimistic book, you won't walk away from it with a bounce in your step. And yet it is a wonderful book, incredibly visceral and emotional. Tallent captures the beauty and wildness of nature, the harshness of human contact, the unflinching cruelty of love. Despite its highly emotional topics, Tallent avoids cliches and overly dramatic prose. Rather, he digs deep into Turtle's psyche, bringing her internal life to the forefront in a way that feels genuine and real. He describes this so well that when he breaks outside of Turtle's world it almost feels jarring and yet strangely exhilarating. It's hard to describe just how much Tallent sucks you into his story and his world, but it is an experience I would recommend to everyone.

At the heart of My Absolute Darling is Turtle, who lives alone with her father in what seems the middle of no where. Her only true emotional and social contact outside her father is her grandfather, himself a conflicting and conflicted character. Her father trains her how to hunt, how to survive, how to anticipate the end of the world. Yet all his training and discipline, his obsessive love for her, has Turtle constantly on the edge of overwhelmed. As she starts to see more of the world around her, how other people live, she begins to question and to wonder, something that will ultimately lead to the end of everything she knows. My Absolute Darling is a chilling character study of both Turtle and her father, a journey into the depths of human darkness, but also an ode to human resilience. There are parts to this book which are truly shocking and graphic, both violent and sexual, and hence I would recommend perhaps avoiding this book if these are triggers for you until you feel ready to face them head on.

Tallent amazingly captures Turtle's mind. On the one hand she is slavishly devoted to her father, who is all she has. On the other hand she is developing her own mind, her own self, and starting to questioning the world he has created for her. There is something lyrical to the novel, how Tallent describes Turtle's ease around nature, her instinct in crisis. Tallent also avoids may of the pitfalls I thought might lie ahead. There is no happy ending with a cherry on top, no grand love affair that carries Turtle away from her misery, no guardian angel that steps in just in time. The novel focuses in solely on Turtle, her journey, her internal life, and she becomes everything the reader needs. My Absolute Darling is a novel of survival, but not in the 'I conquered it and now everything is good'-sense. Rather, it shows survival as the continuous struggle it is, the conscious decision day in day out to wake up and face the world again, to face your demons head on. In that sense, My Absolute Darling is also a very inspiring read.

I give this novel...

5 Universes!

God this novel is amazing! I devoured My Absolute Darling and simply couldn't put it down. Tallent has you on the edge of your seat the whole time and leaves you shaken by the end. It's the kind of novel that will give you something new every time you reread it. I'd recommend this to everyone willing to go on this journey with Turtle, but keep the trigger warnings in mind.

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