Almost Love

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Two and a half star rating.
Sarah always seems to want what she can’t have and if she does get it, no longer wants it!  So that’s pretty infuriating, so well done to the author for introducing a flawed character like that, but quite a few others in this book were unpleasant too.  I thought this would be more like stalker obsession to be honest.  It was OK, didn’t hate the story but didn’t love it either sadly but no doubt others will.
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Hard to know where to start with this book Sarah is not a  very nice character at all, she falls for an older man and they start a relationship but he only uses her for his own sexual gratification.... but my God the way she treats her family and friends is appalling, I felt like giving her a good slap in the face at times...... I know she had a rough enough upbringing in her earlier childhood and   I do get the message that the author is trying to get across but holy God.i didnt like her at all...
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"Love was holding your breath until they texted you. Love was waiting for them to decide that you're good enough."

This book is about Sarah, a struggling artist and a teacher and her story of falling in love with Matthew when she was 24 years old. Matthew was 20 years older than her. He was very clear of what he wanted from the beginning, sex and nothing more. Sarah was ok with it but then she wanted more. The more became an obsession. The story switches between the past and present. It is so depressing in the sense that I can see what she is doing wrong .
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I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an E-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

I will be honest, this has been on my mental TBR list for some time now, but it seemed to be difficult to track down in the UK, so when I saw it on Netgalley I had to request it and I was so happy when I was approved.

“Almost Love” was originally published in hardback and has just recently been published in paperback format- this may be why it has been on Netgalley.

“Almost Love” tells the story of Sarah and her obsessive relationship with an older man, who just so happens to be the parent of on the children in her art class, and the affect this relationship has on the rest of her life.

There is a lot of “then” and “now” in this novel, the  “then” chapters focus on her relationship with Matthew and how it changes her relationships with her friends and her work life.
Whereas the “now” chapters focus on Sarah’s relationship with Oisin and her still apparent addiction to Matthew.

Honestly, Sarah is not a likeable character at all, but she isn’t meant to be, she is written as flawed and selfish, and I think that is what keeps the reader interested.
There is definitely more to her than she lets people see, but ultimately she lets herself play roles that men want her to, she wants to please them (despite how this makes her feel about herself), it is very apparent throughout Sarah’s relationship with Oisin that she likes to be desired, yet the idea of marriage and settling down seems to make her push away.

During Sarah’s fling with Matthew she did lose a few friendships which she has struggled to repair in the future-  in the “now” chapters we see that she had moved away from her home town and tried to change her life into something more glamorous yet there was an emptiness to her.

Matthew was clearly a very destructive character in Sarah’s life- although I don’t think he was a bad person, he himself had his own issues that he needed to deal with properly and was using Sarah as a form of distraction for a couple of hours.

It is clear to see that Sarah and her father have a strained relationship and I think this could have some impact on her relationship choices, I definitely got the impression that she didn’t believe she deserved to be loved so she would rather take what she could.

It would be nice to imagine that in the future Sarah does settle down with the right guy, but I did like that at the end she was trying to work on mending the relationship she had with her father.

This is only the 3rd novel by Louise O’Neill that I have read, but it is also the 3rd that I have loved and not wanted to put down. Louise has an incredible writing style that is just so raw and gripping you feel like you are there.

I will definitely be getting my hands on a copy of “Almost Love”.
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This book was a real struggle for me to finish. I found the main character, Sarah, detestable. I don't need flawless characters but Sarah is so unlikeable that I was unable to sympathise with her and didn't care what happened to her. The object of her obsession, Matthew, is equally unlikeable lacking any charisma or charm and the supporting characters brought nothing to the story. A real disappointment. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Louise O’Neill’s first adult novel, Almost Love, was an accurate depiction of the obsessive feelings that can easily be mistaken for love in a toxic relationship. The writing was incredibly gripping and the story was relatable and heartbreaking.

Almost Love is about Sarah and her toxic relationship with Matthew, a man 20 years her senior. The book follows two timelines, one set in the past when she met and started her relationship with Matthew and one set in the present after the relationship has ended and she is in a new, stable relationship with Oisín, but is till hung up on Matthew and letting it affect her life.

Louise makes it clear how easy it could be to fall for a man like Matthew with his charisma and charm. However, it soon becomes obvious to the reader that Matthew is only interested in a sexual relationship focused on his own pleasure and cares little for Sarah and has no interest in her life. Her growing obsession with Matthew was very relatable – the constant phone-checking and the desperate need for any kind of attention. When Matthew ends things with Sarah, Louise captured the heartbreak that comes with the abrupt end of a relationship you are so invested in brilliantly.

Sarah was a sometimes difficult to like as a character as she truthfully was just not very nice to her friends, her boyfriend Oisín or her father for the majority of the book. However, this made her a very realistic character with the reasoning behind her behaviour often being clear and also I think it was easy to recognise the selfish behaviour you can have when you are a young woman and letting a relationship control your life.

The book was not at all fast-paced with little action driving the plot and yet the writing was nevertheless addictive. I think the past timeline was especially good at getting inside Sarah’s head and really exposing her raw and honest feelings so you almost feel like you are suffering alongside her. The present timeline I found a little less engaging with her treatment of Oisín often feeling frustrating to an annoying level, however it demonstrated how long the effects of such a toxic relationship can last and how Sarah really needed some time to herself before committing to a new relationship.

Although it did not pack as powerful a punch as her YA novels, I really enjoyed Almost Love and think it is an excellent portrait of a dysfunctional relationship that many women can relate to so I highly recommend it.
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I think a lot of modern women can relate to Sarah's experiences. Interesting read.
Thanks for the advance copy
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I loved this book from start to finish, loved the characters and the storyline, I couldn't put this one down
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Almost Love tells us Sarah's story, or at least part of her story. It's divided in two tangled parts: Now and Then.
In Then, we learn chapter after chapter of her relationship with Matthew, an older man and all around asshole.
In Now, we see Sarah's relationship with her new boyfriend, Oisin, crumble.

I thought I was gonna love this, I really did, but I couldn't. Everywhere, all I see is talk about how feminist this book is and I didn't see it. All I saw were toxic characters. They were extremely realistic and felt true but that wasn't enough for me. I don't need characters to be likable and that was a good thing here because none of them were... I did identify with Sarah at times but only on some of the things I cannot stand about myself. I guess what I felt most was anger, at everyone involved but not in a good way. I still can't understand what was so feminist about this book. I don't know how to feel really. I just know this was raw and honest but besides that and the anger I felt, I didn't feel much, I just couldn't care what was happening to Sarah. That's not true, at first I really did but, early on, I detached myself from her and just didn't care anymore...
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I love Louise O’Neill! This book, like her others, was a big hit for me. It was gritty and honest without being too dramatic and tragic, and was incredibly thought provoking. 

Every school should teach this book.
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Set in Ireland, this tells the story of a heartbroken young woman, Sarah.  Initially I found the book jumped around quite a bit from the historic past, the more recent past and the current time.  However, more clarity was brought at the story progressed.  
Sarah is not an overly likeable character, you feel a frustration at how she is so very self absorbed to the point of neglecting her friends and family.  But you can feel a certain amount of empathy for her obsessive affair with wealthy, older business man Matthew.  She is desperate for his commitment and cannot see the doomed nature of the relationship.  I am sure this aspect of the story will resonate with a lot of women.  As the past begins to meet up with the present, we see the fallout of this disastrous part of Sarah's life. .
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A truly gripping depiction of obsessive love- and how all consuming and dangerous to relationships new and old this can be. I was shocked to find the main character was someone I could relate to, and even like.
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Almost Love, the latest from Louise O’Neill, examines an all-too-familiar trope – the attraction of the ‘bad boy’.

Twenty-four-year-old Sarah falls for Matthew, a successful property developer in his forties. Matthew has an ex-wife and a teenage son. His ‘relationship’ with Sarah is limited to hurried meetings in a nondescript Dublin hotel room. Despite their sexual relationship, there is no intimacy. Matthew insists on keeping their meetings a secret; responds sporadically to Sarah’s text messages; and shuts down Sarah’s attempts to make plans.

And Sarah does what most women have either done or witnessed in a female friend – she waits by the phone. She goes as soon as she is beckoned. She accepts being treated like trash. She begs and then apologises… It’s the familiarity of this destructive behaviour that makes Almost Love compelling reading.

Did all women take half-truths and implied promises and side glances and smiles and weave them together to create a narrative, the way she had done?

The death of Sarah’s mother when she was a child; her failed dreams of becoming an artist; and the description of a post-Matthew relationship, provide additional elements to the story, however, it is the flawed character of Sarah, who gives the story depth. She is unlikeable and thoughtless. She is self-centered, lacks empathy, and is a terrible friend.

Sarah’s unkindness to others is an interesting distraction from Matthew’s unkindness to her. Although the fact is that Matthew is a turd, the reader could stray into ‘she deserves what she gets’ territory, and this highlights the very point of the book – that there are gendered inequalities in relationships. Women are expected to be ‘nice’ and accommodating. Neediness and dramatics are not desirable.

In Sarah we see someone who believes that her ‘effort’ is an indicator of love. She falsely interprets the rollercoaster of emotions that she feels for Matthew as an expression of the depth of her love. It’s a slippery slope, constantly reaching out in the hope that someone will ‘love you back’, and allowing yourself to believe that the object of your affection will ‘change’ given the right circumstances.

I must mean something to him, I told myself. And he must mean something to me, if I allow him to treat me this way. He just needs time. 

O’Neill quotes Maya Angelou – ‘…when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time’. It’s true, however, another Angelou gem came to my mind as relevant – ‘Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.’

Almost Love is a quick and thought-provoking read. Although the dialogue and some of the relationships described in the novel lacked the emotional complexity of O’Neill’s previous work, there are strong and interesting themes, particularly around how one relationship impacts those that follow.

3/5 Great book group fodder.

I received my copy of Almost Love from the publisher, Quercus Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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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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