Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty: Book Review

Whatever You Love, set in a coastal English town is, as it says in the blurb, an ‘astonishing and emotionally-charged novel’, about Laura whose nine-year old daughter, Betty has been killed by a hit and run driver.  Laura tells her story alternating between events before Betty’s death – how she met and married David, Betty’s father, their subsequent divorce after his affair with Chloe – and after Betty’s death. Laura’s grief is palpable, which makes this a harrowing book to read. It is also startling and shocking in parts.

The ‘after’ chapters are written in the first person narrative, which I’m never completely happy about, but it works quite well in this book, and it does add some clarity to the sequence of events. I think I endured rather than enjoyed this book; ‘enjoy’ is not the right word to described reading it, but it is well written, and the characters, for the most part are well drawn. There is an emphasis on relationships, not only between Laura and David but also between Laura and Chloe, David’s new wife, between Laura and the Sally, whose daughter Willow was also killed in the accident, and between the local people and the immigrant community. As Laura, fraught with grief, tracks down the driver of the car she spirals more and more out of control. 

I found the ending of the book inconclusive and there are some questions left hanging.  It seemed to me a book of two halves – the first dwelling on Laura’s grief and her inability to cope, with the second concentrating on her instability. Just how reliable was Laura, a woman who was pushed to the edge of sanity? Overall, I was impressed by the writing and will look for more by Louise Doughty.

My copy was sent to me by the publishers, Faber and Faber via Library Thing’s Early Reviewers’ Programme.