I’d read and enjoyed Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours and have heard good things about Asking For It (which I now have a copy of incidentally, a cracking charity shop find) so when I heard she was bringing out a new novel aimed at an adult audience I knew I had to get involved with that, I’m not much of a YA reader but made an exception for Only Ever Yours and I’m glad I did.
Almost Love tells the story of Sarah, an art teacher in her twenties living in Dublin. She lives with her boyfriend Oisin in his parents property. His mum is a well regarded artist who Sarah looks up to and admires despite feeling slightly intimidated by her.
Sarah and Oisin’s relationship appears to be very strained. Sarah is evidently unhappy and is in turn making Oisin miserable. Sarah has lots of emotional baggage left over from a very difficult relationship that she had with a parent of one of her pupils.
Matthew is a very influential and affluent man with his own property business. Initially Sarah keeps him at arms length but soon succumbs to his charms. However Matthew is not as invested in Sarah as she is in him and as her obsession with him continues to spiral he becomes more and more distant and ambivalent about their so called relationship which is mainly conducted behind the closed door of room 63 in a local hotel at times that are convenient for him.
As Sarah falls deeper in love with Matthew, she is increasingly accepting of his distant behaviour, waiting for days for even a text message from him. Going along with the unsatisfying, rough, emotionless sex just to keep him happy.
Her close friendships begin to suffer and particularly her relationship with her father. Ever willing to push friends aside and drop plans just to rush to Matthew when he deigns to call.
Sarah finds any opportunity she can to talk to her friends about Matthew. They can all clearly see how badly he is treating her, more or less just using her as toy whenever the urge takes him, but they cannot make Sarah see sense.
This was quite a difficult read at times. We see how independent and switched on Sarah was before Matthew. She’s ultimately a flawed character but I like that. She’s not the typical girl next door being put upon character. I did however wan to shake her and wake her up to how she was being treated and what she was losing as a consequence. Mainly her relationships but also losing sight of who she was herself.
Interesting aswell to see how early relationships and the baggage you carry from them can infiltrate future relationships and cause them to deteriorate.
Quite an eye opening read, I enjoyed the fact that the chapters based in the past were told in the first person so we could really get a sense of how Sarah was feeling during her relationship with Matthew. Chapters set in the current day were told in the third person and I enjoyed this differentiation.
Its heartbreaking to see how Sarah over analyses her behaviour. Tearing herself apart for how she has behaved.
I should have turned him down the first time he asked me out.
I should have known not to get involved with a parent.
I should have kept things professional
I should have refused to give him my number.
I should have waited longer before texting him back.
I should never have gone to meet him in that hotel.
I should have insisted that he take me for dinner first.
I should have waited until the first date to have sex with him.
I should have been more reluctant.
I should have sent shorter texts.
I should have made him chase me.
I should have been more honest.
I should have been less honest.
I should have been more like Florence.
I should have dyed my hair blonde.
I should have waited for him to text first.
I should have been less needy.
I should have been better.
This book is a solid 4 stars from me. A contemporary ‘almost’ love story that takes you on a journey with Sarah whether you want to go or not.
I would thoroughly recommend it.
See you soon.
Bookish Chat xx