Whatever You Love
Louise Doughty, Faber & Faber, 2010
When Laura’s nine-year-old daughter Betty is killed in a hit-and-run accident, grief unhinges her. Old wounds relating to her divorce from Betty’s father, David, open up. These include fresh resentment about his partner and their baby.
Laura’s loss provokes a strong desire for revenge and some questionable behaviour involving a kitchen knife and the man who drove the car that hit Betty.
Laura muses, “I think of how I had to hurt someone because of all the things that were hurting me and how I would never have seen it that way at the time. I think how there is always a way we can justify ourselves to ourselves to make ourselves moral, heroic even.”
Not many of the characters in Doughty’s sinister novel about the intensity of love and the cruelty of fate seem entirely sane.
Threatening, hand-written notes add further unpredictability.
Laura’s relationship with David shifts to eerie cohabitation when his partner goes missing.
She says, “What is this that we feel for each other now if not love? Love built on pain — the kind that lasts: Whatever we love can be taken away from us at any moment but the loss of what we love belongs to us forever.”
Doughty’s novel is accomplished, creepy, and leaves in its wake a lingering unease.
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