After the death of her daughter, Laura begins to fall apart and within her cycle of despair are the beginnings of a plan to wreak revenge on the man who killed Betty and who has been convicted of nothing more than failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
It sounds like a great premise, a mother torn apart by grief and a desire for revenge but unfortunately Louise Doughty’s book, Whatever You Love failed to deliver. It was a slow burner that spent most of the time detailing Laura’s past, her meeting and subsequent life with David, Betty’s father, Betty’s early life and the bitter circumstances of Laura and David’s divorce. Much is also made of the all-consuming depression Laura sinks into after Betty’s death and this is where Doughty excels. The pain Laura feels at the loss of her daughter taints every aspect of the book and is brilliantly written.
However all of this leaves little room for the revenge which is supposedly the meat of the story and as a result I was left feeling somewhat short-changed. And the other problem is that I just don’t buy it.
For the first two thirds of the book I totally believed in Laura, I didn’t like her relationship with David, there were too many warning signs for me to condone their relationship (I mean he proposed after dangling her over a cliff edge and making her fear for her life – not my kind of guy), but she recognised them as well: recognised them, ignored them and wondered at her own reasons for doing so. I didn’t like it but I believed it.
It was when the idea of revenge occurred and everything happened all at once that it just felt…forced. It was like Doughty had set out to write a book about a mother’s grief but had realised at the last minute that wouldn’t sell so forced in the revenge story as an after-thought. It didn’t even really make sense.
For a start I didn’t see the potential in Laura to form that kind of plan, perhaps she could have been the kind of person who finally snapped under the weight of everything she’d had to deal with but that wasn’t the way she came across. And the revenge she planned didn’t really seem like something she would do and the subsequent story was impossible to fathom.
The whole thing didn’t really fit together as one story and by the end I was left scratching my head and wondering what exactly HAD happened. Of course the old misdirection is an old technique in crime fiction but this was just a little too bizarre for my tastes.