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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Our Kind of Cruelty: A Novel


Holy. Mother. Of. Pearl. I heard that Araminta Hall’s Our Kind of Cruelty was a gripping, wonderful thriller, but I wasn’t expecting THAT. 

Mike and Verity were college sweethearts, and for several years after university they supported each other moving up in their careers in London. Mike takes a job in the United States for a short time, and upon his return, his relationship with his beloved V is over — or is it? She won’t answer his emails or calls, and she’s getting married in a few months. But it’s all part of the game they play, this Crave, and Mike believes, no, knows, that if he plays his role the way he’s supposed to, he and V can be stronger than ever before. If only she would speak to him, though. No matter. Soon. 

Heads up — I can’t talk about this book without throwing in a few spoilers, so caveat emptor. 

I honestly didn’t know what to make of this book as I read it with a mouth agape and my head cocked to the side. This is, by far, a huge compliment. It is astounding that Hall could write such an incredible piece of work that treats a mentally ill man with such a deep humanity that sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what the truth is. Even as Mike is reaching in his interpretations of Verity’s communications, and you know he is reaching, you still aren’t sure which was is up and you ask yourself, “Am I really sure that she’s not playing a Crave?” Because she could be. When we are in Mike’s head as his first-person narrative unfold, we could very well be there. He is both a reliable and an unreliable narrator, and it’s mind-boggling at times the mental gymnastics he goes through to convince himself that he’s seeing what he wants to see. 

Hats off to Hall on the construction of this book as well. I thought for sure this would give me the ending most of these books do, which is that the woman ends up either dead or fighting back and forever scarred. This story, though, ends even worse than that. The first part of the book focuses on Verity’s upcoming wedding and Mike settling back into London, building a home for Verity when she decides to leave her now-husband. The second part is post-wedding when Mike’s determination ends in a spectacular fashion and everyone’s lives are changed. The third part is the most frightening of all, and it’s what I didn’t expect when I picked up the book. What the actual living fuck? 

(Again, a compliment.)

I was so blown away that I was both repulsed by the events and enraptured in what was going to happen. I couldn’t have predicted this ending, and I was spellbound. This story is just simply jaw-dropping, and it’s absolutely worth any praise you’ve heard of it. One of the blurbs said something along the lines of being glued until the very last, chilling line. I didn’t necessarily find that last line most chilling, but rather the first of the author’s acknowledgements. Save it until the end, and it will put the book in an even stronger context. 

Ms. Hall, if I may address you directly — you are incredible and I bow down to you for this raw and intense portrait of violence against women. It feels so real it’s frightening. Thank you. 

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