Almost Love by Louise O’Neill – Book Review

Title: Almost Love

Author: Louise O’Neill

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Toxic Relationships, Emotional Drama

Blurb from Goodreads

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn’t it?

My Review

I’m utterly floored by this book.

If you haven’t read anything by Louise O’Neill yet then you really need to rectify that right now. In Asking For It she wrote a phenomenal story exploring the topic of rape culture and consent. In Only Ever Yours she focused on equality of the sexes. And now in Almost Love she writes about sexual politics within a relationship.

This book’s portrayal of a young woman that somehow loses herself to a toxic obsessive love is one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction I have ever read.

It’s truthful.
It’s raw.
It’s honest.

It exposes that deepest of questions that causes such hidden personal angst and torment. That of am I good enough? Am I deserving of love?

“‘Love is kind,’ she said, with such certainty, as if she believed it, but I didn’t think that was true. Love was holding your breath until they texted you. Love was waiting for them to decide that you’re good enough.”

I absolutely 100% love the main character Sarah.

She’s utterly flawed. Doesn’t always make decisions that would endear her to the masses but heck, what does likability in a book matter???

I was watching a TV interview with Louise soon after this book was published and she raised a very valid point, one that I have agreed with my whole reading life. Why are we so concerned with likability with female characters?

Do we always raise the same issues when we read male led books??

We happily read about the male anti-hero but where is the female equivalent?

There are a lot of gendered expectations out there concerning female behaviour in that women are frequently socially conditioned into always having to be this *nice girl* character. I want to read books featuring characters that feel real. Characters that aren’t treated by their writer creators as special snowflakes and infallible. I want authentic.

Real people screw up and make mistakes.

And in this book Sarah makes a heck of a lot of mistakes. In many respects she is complicit in how her life and thusly her relationships with friends and family have fallen down around her. And I love her as a character because she makes these mistakes.
Because she’s not perfect.
Because she challenges me as a reader
And because she forces the reader to question their actions. Shines a light on things about ourselves we may not be comfortable with.

“Sitting in the dark. Ashes in her chest, thinking of Matthew. The way he had treated her. Hair pulled and flesh slapped and her head thrown back, swearing that she loved it, asking him for more. Sarah was afraid that he might have broken her and she was afraid that she might have been the one who asked to be broken.”

The plot of the book oscillates between then and now.

‘Then’ is the time in Sarah’s life when as a 24 year old she gets involved in a relationship with a man named Matthew who is twenty years older than she.

And ‘Now’ deals with some years later and the profound impact this toxic, one sided relationship has had on her life.

Frequently I would read a paragraph or even a sentence and be so struck by it that I would sit in silence just thinking about what I had read. This book is so raw in its execution that it feels cathartic to read it. Even if you have never been in a relationship so mired in sexual politics as Sarah’s and Matthew’s was, there is still much to connect to with regards to understanding what a loving relationship should feel like. It provides a much needed social commentary on the need to throw off the deeply entrenched gender roles that have existed in relationships and dares to ask the reader to begin to redefine the terms of what are the traditional masculine and feminine roles.

A fantastic book that I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in reading realistic, contemporary fiction that doesn’t sugarcoat love and romance.

I should have turned him down the first time he asked me out.

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 third 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.

Other Works by Louise O’Neill I’ve Reviewed

My Socials

12 thoughts on “Almost Love by Louise O’Neill – Book Review

  1. This one has been on my wishlist for ages now that I feel like I need to cave and just get it. It sounds like such a gut-churning but powerful (and maybe painful) read! I’m very much looking forward to reading more O’Neill! Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have her next book as an arc from NetGalley and I’m so excited to read it! It’s a psychological thriller though Dini…ME. THE ULTIMATE CHICKEN’S SIDEKICK READING A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER *gulps*
      But yes, almost love is brilliant…book nearly broke me lol 😂😂😂💙💛🌟


  2. I didn’t know that she’d written a book like this, I’ll have to add this to my TBR! O’Neill is one of my favourite authors and she’s great at writing this sort of messy, very real story. Thank you so much for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay I’m so glad you’re gonna read it. What I love about O’Neill is that she keeps challenging herself with her writing. She can write dystopia, contemporary ya, fantasy ya, adult contemporary and her upcoming book is an adult mystery! She’s never boring 😊😊😊💖✨✨✨

      Liked by 1 person

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