10 May 2018

Book Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

OUR KIND OF CRUELTY is told from the POV of an obsessed and delusional stalker named Mike. Mike believes he is playing a game of cat and mouse with the love of his life and ex-girlfriend named Verity. In reality, Verity (or V) has moved on from their relationship, fallen in love with "the most eligible bachelor in London," and plans to marry him. When V sends Mike an invitation to the wedding, he is convinced this was a calculated move in their twisted little game of Crave. Now, it's his move.

"They say that hate is the closest emotion to love. And passion certainly exists in two forms. The passion of sex and the passion of arguments. For V and I, one would merge into the other all the time."

I won't delve into the plot specifics because it would ruin the story for you, but the book is divided into three parts.

Part One: consists of inner dialogue that provides the backstory -- details about Mike's traumatic childhood, how he and V came to meet, the highs and lows of their 8 year relationship, the dynamics of their silly games, etc. It sets the stage for what will come later and helps the reader understand his actions, beliefs, and motivations.

Part Two: the story begins to pick up and the main event begins to unfold

Part Three: everything comes full circle as it all plays out in a courtroom

I had a hard time putting this book down but also have a few issues with it. My biggest issue is with Mike. To put simply, the man is certifiable. He has very little social intelligence and misinterprets everyday social cues on a near constant basis. Yet, we are to believe he's a very successful banker who rakes in million dollar bonuses, despite this social ineptitude. My other issue is with Verity. If the author intended readers to sympathize with V, she did a poor job. We don't know enough about her character (her personality, or head space, or what motivates her) to know if she's being genuine. Thus, we are left to wonder if Verity ever cared about Mike at all or if the only person she ever truly cared about was herself.

I've seen this book touted as a work "that puts man's depravity on display". I actually believe the opposite may be true. In my opinion, Verity appears to be just as depraved as Mike in this story (maybe even more so... she is a master in the art of social skills, after all). I was left with too many questions. Did V take advantage of Mike's vulnerability and lack of social skills to mold him into the man that she wanted? Into a man she could easily manipulate? Is it fair to deem someone's behavior as "depraved" if that behavior is motivated by a distorted reality? I'm not sure that it is. 

In the end, OUR KIND OF CRUELTY felt more depressing to me than it did disturbing. I also would have preferred a much more resolute ending. Regardless, I feel confident this novel will be popular among book clubs (as there is much to discuss!) and a hit with the fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.

*A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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