Our Kind of Cruelty review: Tearing at the heart of an unconventional love | Books | Entertainment



This time it is the male protagonist who is driven mad by love and desire with terrible consequences.

We first meet Mike in a jail cell, imprisoned because he killed someone. He proceeds to tell us his life story and describes his obsessive love for partner Verity.

Mike and Verity met at college and developed a secret erotic game called The Crave in which beautiful Verity would set out to attract men in bars and clubs while Mike watched.

Mike would then attack the hapless would‐be Romeo for hitting on his partner and the couple would retire to make passionate love.

Mike’s mother was alcoholic and had a series of violent boyfriends so he was adopted into a working‐class family and posh Verity taught him about the finer things in life. He gets a great job in the City but then lands an even better‐paid job in New York.

He moves there alone, hoping to earn so much money that when he returns the couple are set up for life and can marry. The future looks rosy. But while he is living abroad Verity announces she is marrying someone else. 

This launches Mike into a pattern of obsessive behaviour. He believes Verity is teasing him with an extreme version of The Crave. He is convinced she still wants him and he will go to any lengths to keep her. 

Mike tells the story in the first person which cleverly prevents him from seeming an insane cartoon baddie, the reader developing sympathy for him even though his behaviour goes beyond what most of us would do to keep a lover close. 

And of course this unreliable narrator keeps us guessing. Is Verity really stringing him along? Or has Mike gone too far? And does the reader judge Verity harshly for her love of sex? 

I read Our Kind Of Cruelty in two sittings. It is pacily written and hugely involving, set in a well‐drawn world of well‐heeled London. Mike is a character who might stretch credibility but never breaks it and I was gripped until the last pages.


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