Almost Love

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you to netgalley and quercas for the arc of Almost Love in exchange for a review and feedback.  
This is a bit different to the type of books I read so took me a little while to get into it. I need to remind myself that not all characters in a book are likeable, and therefore the author has done a good job in creating a character.  I think a of women will identify wlot ith Sarah at the same time though. 
The book flips between then and now,  I preferred the "then" section more, I felt we learned more about Sarah in the past. This book does make you think about how the past influences the present.
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“Almost Love” was first published in the spring of 2018 and having skimmed through the first couple of “Now” & “Then” chapters while browsing for my next read in a bookshop, I’d decided then and there that this book wasn’t for me. What has happened since? I mostly ‘blame’ it on Sally Rooney and Eimear McBride for teaching me that a story is not always about likeable protagonists, because people can sometimes be self-obsessed, self-destructive, and their motivations not always rational.  

I am not going into how destructive the relationship between Sarah Fitzpatrick and the older Matthew Brennan becomes and why she behaves the way she does: someone with a psychology background could have a field day only with the first ten or so pages. My take-away from this is that another person and their approval of you shouldn’t be your source of happiness.

Louise O'Neill’s first move into adult fiction touches on a subject matter that women’s contemporary narratives rarely (or rather, guardedly) approach: sexual dysfunction and power dynamics in toxic relationships and why – even though there are not set out to win the reader’s sympathy - these stories deserve to be told. 

I’m so glad I gave this one another shot!
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Louise O'Neill is an extremely intelligent and perceptive author and once again, her writing absolutely soars.  I tore through this book and rate it highly although for me there would have been more nuance in making Sarah less categorically unpleasant and a bit less complicit in her degradation.  I suppose it underscores her lack of self-esteem and capacity for self-delusion but for me the portrayal diluted the satisfaction and the feminist message a bit.
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Heartbreakingly sad read but has made it to my list of best books so far this year. A must read for any fan of this genre, not to be missed!
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I am sorry to say that I didn't like this book. I normally enjoy O Neills books and will continue to read. I didn't think this book was anything like Marian Keyes style of writing.
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I'm a huge fan of Louise O'Neill and I especially loved her other recent novel, Asking for it. This is an author that doesn't shy away writing books that focus on the messier parts of life and relationships. Hearts and rainbows, her books definitely aren't. She's an incredibly talented writer, who takes immensely difficult topics, that we need to talk about and lays them bare for us.

BUT.... oh....I REALLY didn't like this book. First of all, Sarah is an intensely unlikable protagonist. That's OK though, I usually quite like that. After all - aren't we all messy and full of character flaw? But she was just such a bland, toxic individual. The kind of person that you would encourage your friends to cut out of their lives, as just being near them is emotionally draining. Even before she meets Matthew, she is incredibly self involved and I just couldn't fathom how she would even have any friends, as she was so unwilling to support anyone around her.

The blurb would have you believe that Sarah falls in love with a man that 'woos' her and then takes advantage of her, but that's just not the case. When they first meet, Sarah is unimpressed by him, and not at all swayed by his wealth and prestige. And there was never any reason given for her opinion to change. Why would she have voluntarily entered into this weird sexual dalliance with him? All of a sudden we are supposed to believe that she is obsessed with him, but why? What needs of hers does he fulfill? We know he is distant, only interested in gratifying his own sexual needs, doesn't make her laugh, never makes her feel loved. And at every point, he makes it clear that he doesn't want anything more from Sarah. It's too easy to look at this narrative and say, 'he leads her on', but that's simply not the case.

I get the fact that people get themselves into unhealthy and destructive relationships and that dynamic is definitely worth exploring. It's just I couldn't believe in this story as there was utterly no reason why either party would have embarked on this 'affair' in the first place.

Yes we get addicted to things that are bad for us - take eating junk food for example. The reason for this, is that in the moment it tastes nice, and we like the rush of hormones that flood us. We are drawn to them because they fulfill some craving within us. But, I just couldn't see that here. It would have made much more sense if in the start of their 'relationship', Matthew was fulfilling her needs and then he withdrew that attention. I could understand then, that she would crave a return to that situation, and wonder what she had done wrong.

Couple this with the fact that she is utterly repugnant to all of her friends and family and it was hard to know who in this story we are meant to root for. It wasn't clear that she learnt anything from the experience (or even, if we did?) or if there was any sort of moral to take form this story? I'm totally open to a story about someone on a path to self-destruction, but I needed to understand more about why she was on that path. Plus I actually found the narrative messy and confusing in parts, which didn't help with my ambivalence.

As always though - a disclaimer. This book is getting great reviews from a lot of people. John Boyne, one of my current favourite authors, gave it 5 stars. It could be that I'm massively missing the point here, or perhaps I just wasn't in the right head space.

Big thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for the free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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An interesting and raw character study of a self-destructive mid twenties girl called Sarah. I really enjoyed reading how Sarah's character unravelled, and the impact it had on her life and everyone around. For most of the book I wanted to shake her and scream 'cop the f*** on'. She really is a character I loved to hate.
I honestly however don't go along with the opinions that this is a portrayal of gender roles and men's power play etc. This story was clearly written with the male character disclosing fully his intentions and Sarah just not being accepting of these. 
It did make me look at the manipulation of a person's weaknesses and insecurities by those they give power to and highlighted a huge need for people to increase their self awareness. 
A thought provoking 3.5/5
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I thought I'd like this novel because of the title and because it was recommended for fans of Marian Keyes.  I was disappointed.

The novel centres around  Sarah, a young woman who has many unpleasant traits such as self pity, jealousy, selfishness, the ability to hurt others and a lazy attitude towards life. All that darkness without a glimmer of light or a redeeming quality is hard to empathise with. I did try but the novel unraveled slowly and I couldn't invest in Sarah's journey. 

She was involved in an abusive relationship and still hankers after the man years later. The novel seems to be about her trying to turn her life around. She doesn't try very hard and she hurts a lot of people and I ended up disinterested in what happened to her. 

We discover that Sarah is a lousy teacher and colleague and unprofessional. She went to art college but doesn't put the hours of effort in to try to become a successful painter. so teaching is for a pay packet not a vocation. She has a loving partner but is cruel to him and so rude to his mother who is trying to help her. Her relationship with her father is poor because she can't move on from how he was when she was a child. She has good friends who she treats badly. 

 I didn't enjoy the book. The most perplexing and irritating thing was the comparison with Marian Keyes. Yes, she also writes about flawed Irish characters but there the sililarity ends. Marian Keyes gives her characters  heart and uses light and shade to draw the reader into her stories.
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Every time you almost start to like the main character, the author reminds you that she's a shitty person. It's fantastic writing, because despite this, I still want to keep reading. The guy - Matthew - is completely repulsive though, but you can understand why Sarah would like him, if only in part because she's the awful person that she is.

This is a criminally difficult book to read, in two ways. Firstly, the normal way, in that it's very slow and not a lot happens. Secondly and more importantly though, it's hard to read because it sheds an intense light on being a woman. Being in desperate need of validation and love. Being a shitty person sometimes.

I cried. I highlighted a lot of passages that I immediately felt in my bones.

I feel like this an important book for a lot of women.
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My favorite thing about this book is that the main character,  Sarah is not supposed to be likable. She is deeply flawed and because of that, she is not an immediately relatable character or perceived as a nice person. This is not a book that you read because you want to feel happy for the characters. As Sarah grows and is forced to face herself and her choices so is the reader. Throughout the book one of the themes that are most talked about are unhealthy relationships and how many different aspects there are to them. I particularly liked that subject because for Sarah at least, getting away from such a relationship was also a way for her to grow and start preparing herself to be the person that she has the potential to be.
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I could not gel with this book. I thought going into this i would love this as O'Neill also wrote Only Ever Yours but this book was not for me. The beginning shows Sarah in a bad light and I really did not care about her. As the story progresses, I should have cared more but I just did not. This was not for me but I'll try something from Louise O'Neill again
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‘We all have regrets. That’s part of being an adult.’

To be quite frank I was disappointed by this book. I read Louise’s previous book “Asking For It” and despite the tough topics it covered and the not so likeable lead character, I enjoyed the message it portrayed. 
With “Almost Love” however I just felt frustrated by Sarah and her horrible attitude. She was selfish, self-absorbed and rude. I felt like she had no redeeming qualities and this made it very difficult to feel any sympathy for her. 
I can understand the need to write a character who is realistic rather than likeable, and Louise does that very well, but for me I need to connect with a character to really be invested in their story and that just didn’t happen with Sarah. 

Some of the other characters were very likeable though. I particularly liked Fionn. He seemed like such a genuinely nice guy who loved Sarah and would have done anything for her. 

On a more positive note there were things I did enjoy about this book. The writing style was descriptive and the situations were true to life. Louise once again portrays a number of serious messages about toxic relationships, self-worth and feminism. 
This book isn’t as hard hitting as “Asking For It” but it does raise the questions of “am I good enough” and “am I worthy of love” that lots of women, in particular, will relate to.

Louise O’Neill doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is and although it’s not always comfortable to read, it is thought provoking. 

3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Quercus Books) for providing a copy. All opinions are my own and provided willingly.
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Phenomenal. I read it in as close to one sitting as I could manage. A properly compulsive read that will touch very close to home for a lot of readers. Sarah is a fantastic and frustrating protagonist (in a good way!) and we follow her making decisions that are likely to be fully recognisable. O'Neill has written a book that is honest and truly necessary.
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I am sorry but I could not get into this book at all. I did not like any of the characters especially Sarah. I kept reading but could not get any interest in or empathy with the characters.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Sometimes love isn't easy, love is the way you have to learn by yourself. Sarah is the kind of character that she has to love herself before loving someone else. This story brings more meanings than I thought it would be. Highly recommended. 
Many thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for kindly providing me the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review
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A story about growing up and making mistakes along the way. No one is perfect and the way we view each other is impermanent too. Reminded me of Sally Rooney’s ‘Conversations with Friends’ and ‘Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope’. Compelling enough to finish but I found the same problems with Sarah that her friends did: she’s the kind of character who’s so wrapped up in herself that everyone else is an afterthought. I wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to her.
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Another hard hitting and thought provoking story. You can understand the main character's reason behind the cruel comments being said and she cant hold it in which loses her some of her closest friends. She tries to stay near Dublin with her boyfriend and be with her college friends but with failed relationship and failed relationship,  she goes home to her dad who is still grieving for his wife and wants his daughter back home even though she's 27.
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An easy quick read. I throughly enjoyed this book which is probably why I flew through it. 
I was hooked from the very first page.
Yes it’s about I’ve however to me it offers so much more than that.
Recommended read.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Quercus Books for my eARC in exchange for my honest unbiased review
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I really, really enjoyed this book. It's written in a super engaging style that keeps the story moving.  Kept me thoroughly engrossed and can't wait to read more by the same author

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for kindly providing me the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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When I read the synopsis for ‘Almost Love’, I mistook it for YA, partly because ‘Asking for It’ (which I read last year) was, and also because I wrongly assumed it was about a teen in an abusive relationship with a much older man.  But this was definitely an adult book, about a twenty-something schoolteacher (Sarah) in a psychologically damaging affair with the father of one of her students (Matthew). Not my usual read, so at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading this, but ‘Almost Love’ surprised me in that it was just as brutally honest, timely, and emotional as ‘Asking for It’.

A quick, easy read, utilising one, third person POV, with the NOW and THEN format replacing chapters. Content wise, the abuse is psychological, but also physical in the form of rough/rape sex. I wouldn’t call it graphic, nor does it go into great detail, but it isn’t mild either, instead falls somewhere in between. 

Sarah was a toxic person – a damaged soul long before she encountered Matthew, the majority of her issues stemming from childhood trauma. And, I would never make light of what she endured as a child (it was awful what she went through), but she was a grown woman in this book, who had a lot of good (and support) in her life – more than most, and she doesn’t appreciate any of it. Sarah is selfish, she’s whiny, and treats her family and friends like crap, expecting them to be at her beck and call, but doesn’t do the same for them in return. I’m guessing this was the point, that when a person feels this low, they cannot see what they have, and continuously make poor choices. And, I found it all really interesting, and I relished analysing Sarah, but if unlikeable protagonists, who never learn from their mistakes, depress you, then I’d steer clear of this one.

The other thing I found really intriguing was that in the present storyline, Sarah was psychologically abusive towards her live-in boyfriend, Oisin (not a spoiler – made clear from the onset), in fact in some ways she treated him worse than Matthew treated her. Also, I liked how this book showed how Sarah’s poisonous association with Matthew, impacted her friendships, and affected those closest to her. Yet more reasons why this was such a compelling novel.

This was my second read by Lousie O’Neill that I rated highly, so if she writes more in this vein, whether it’s adult or YA, I’ll be reading.

I’d like to thank Netgalley, Quercus Books, and Louise O’Neill for the e-ARC.

UK Publication Date: 7th March, 2019

Review posted to Amazon, Goodreads and Instagram.
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