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My Absolute Darling
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April 2018: Strong Women > My Absolute Darling/Tallent - 3 stars

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Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments It's really hard to review this book because in some ways the highs were very high, and the lows were very low. Three stars doesn't really capture it adequately.

Tallent is clearly very talented (sorry!). His use of the English language and the vocabulary he uses to tell this story of an abusive (mentally deranged) father and his 14-year old daughter living off the grid are extraordinary. Some reviewers indicated the amount of description was too much and used too many adjectives, but I enjoyed how he described nature and conjured up pictures in my mind.

In addition, the guy has a real feel for creating tension. This book has a lot of abuse, and I'm not one to shy away from reading that type of book at all. A Little Life and Lolita are two favorites of mine. However, this book is more along the lines of American Psycho. So be forewarned. However, one of the scenes I found to be the most excruciating had to do with scorpions and nothing to do with abuse. I do think that for many readers, the amount of abuse and the depictions of it would throw them over the edge.

But my criticisms are really not about the subject matter, but more lie in the way the 14 year old daughter, Turtle, is portrayed. Yes, she is a victim of circumstance, and yes, she was raised in the wild by a father who is the picture of toxic masculinity, but somehow I couldn't help but feel that the (male) author wrote her as he pictures a young girl would react to the circumstances confronting her. It just didn't read like a real person to me. Swearing is one thing, but she refers to herself, in her mind, as a (view spoiler). She clearly has a dilemma about what do to regarding her abusive father - - like how can she get out of the situation when she depends on him - - but her whole perspective reads much more like an abused wife than a teenager. Teenagers are rebellious and more likely to be angry. They aren't torn between the idea of being "in love" and escaping the abuse . . .at least no teenager I ever knew was like that. A younger girl I can see being more torn about missing out on parental love, but at fourteen, um, I don't think so. At any rate, despite the abuse being really, really graphic and horrible, I felt myself cringing strictly because of the level of abuse as opposed to really feeling Turtle's pain. Somehow, I just didn't feel like she was real enough to care about.

My other issue with the book is that it goes from a very literary first three quarters to a thriller style ending, and it felt way over the top, like watching a movie. We all know how much I like movies (not so much).

Finally, there are too many loose ends. The father is an abusive alcoholic, and apparently something in his childhood made him that way, but it's never fully revealed to the reader - - only alluded to. There's a boy that Turtle likes, but pushes away for his own safety, and that relationship is never really resolved either. The circumstances with a second little girl, Cayenne, is also vague. I'm not one who needs a story wrapped up in a neat bow, but when the only fully realized character is the most abusive and horrific one, I felt these loose ends annoyed me more.

All in all, the book does a great job at creating suspense. The author tells a story that felt original to me, and I personally really liked his writing style though it was anything but spare. However, I can't really quite bring myself to say I enjoyed reading it despite these strengths.


message 2: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3834 comments Hmm this is already on my TBR list. Great review, definitely making me think this might count of my listopia "Most disturbing books"- what do you think?

If I remember correctly, Susie really liked this book too. Us fans of the dark and disturbing....


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Joi wrote: "Hmm this is already on my TBR list. Great review, definitely making me think this might count of my listopia "Most disturbing books"- what do you think?

If I remember correctly, Susie really like..."


OMG, if it isn't on your listopia list, it really should be there. I would absolutely agree that it would fit. Susie loved this as did one of my closest friends! It didn't 100% work for me - - but a fan of darker work should probably give it a shot.

I'm actually reading another dark book right now, The Collector, and am totally loving it. It's much, much less graphic, but still thought provoking.


Susie | 4488 comments Another dark lover here, and yes, I did love this one. Like Anita, I enjoyed his writing style immensely, and found the story compelling and completely unputdownable. I didn’t have the same issue with the authenticity of Turtle as you Anita. Interestingly I had a client many years ago who had a strange almost spouse like relationship with her abusive father, and reading this I often thought of her, so perhaps that helped. I agree that it would have been more satisfying if Tallent had have tied up all of the loose ends, however my inability to get it out of my mind or put it down led me to a five star rating regardless. It really has been a memorable reading experience for me.


message 5: by Nicole D. (new) - added it

Nicole D. | 1497 comments I loved American Psycho, and we know I can handle dark, but the incest and the dynamic between dad and daughter made it untenable for me so I had to put it aside. I don't feel like I missed anything.

Conversely, The Collector is a FANTASTIC book. I love John Fowles and thought that was an interesting take on the kidnapper story.


message 6: by Nicole D. (new) - added it

Nicole D. | 1497 comments BTW - Did this fit the tag? The review doesn't make it sound like she's a strong woman, but maybe survival is strength.


message 7: by Nicole D. (new) - added it

Nicole D. | 1497 comments NVM - you didn't post it under strong women, but wasn't it tagged that?


Susie | 4488 comments It definitely fits the tag.


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Susie wrote: "Another dark lover here, and yes, I did love this one. Like Anita, I enjoyed his writing style immensely, and found the story compelling and completely unputdownable. I didn’t have the same issue w..."

So interesting about your client. It is amazing how life experience really impacts how we read. I really couldn't stretch my imagination in regard to Turtle because I've just never encountered a teenager remotely like her. Which isn't to say I couldn't have believed it, but somehow how Tallent wrote her, I wasn't persuaded.

I wasn't sure about the tag, but I am moving the thread . . .somehow I didn't consider her a woman, but a girl. She was strong in the survivor sense of the word. Not sure I saw her as psychologically strong . . .although I'm not sure anyone could be in the face of her monstrous father.


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Nicole D. wrote: "I loved American Psycho, and we know I can handle dark, but the incest and the dynamic between dad and daughter made it untenable for me so I had to put it aside. I don't feel like I missed anythin..."

I'm really, really enjoying The Collector . . .about halfway through. The characters are so well developed which is important to me. I'm empathizing AND disliking both of them if that makes any sense.


message 11: by Nicole D. (new) - added it

Nicole D. | 1497 comments it does, I think the thing that was interesting about it is how you get on with the day-to-day of life when you are in that situation. At least that's what I remember about it.


Susie | 4488 comments *furiously puts The Collector at the top of her list*


message 13: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9352 comments Sometimes it’s fun to watch the dark ones cackle around the cauldron. The few of you are fun to follow.


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Nicole D. wrote: "it does, I think the thing that was interesting about it is how you get on with the day-to-day of life when you are in that situation. At least that's what I remember about it."

Agree. There's a lot of other layers in this book as well. I found Miranda's whole relationship with G.P. to be an interesting parallel. I finished, and really thought it was excellent. Readable, suspenseful, but literary with excellent characterization. Very, very good recommendation (which I did get from you).


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Susie wrote: "*furiously puts The Collector at the top of her list*"

Ha ha, I do think you would like it, Susie . . .maybe not as much as I did, but you would like it.


Anita Pomerantz | 6745 comments Amy wrote: "Sometimes it’s fun to watch the dark ones cackle around the cauldron. The few of you are fun to follow."

Lol, not sure I like that characterization, Amy, but you made me giggle.


message 17: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3834 comments I think I'll read this for my listopia at some point this year.

Also added The Collector to my TBR. Sounds like this would also fit for "most disturbing books".

A while back I read Stolen: A Letter to My Captor- which was a YA take on a kidnapper/ Stockholm Syndrome. Not the best book, but apparently these terrible themes have always peaked my interest, lol.


message 18: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9352 comments Toil and Trouble....


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