It’s quite something when you read a book where all the lead characters are essentially unlikeable, but you become obsessed with them and just can’t stop reading. Set in Dublin, Our Little Cruelties is the story of the dysfunctional Drumm family and all the ways their complex relationship strands are woven together.
I was totally invested in Our Little Cruelties because the characters had a low moral bar – you literally didn’t know what they were going to do or reveal about themselves next. That’s why this psychological thriller was so addictive.
Opening sentence: All three of the Drumm brothers were at the funeral, although one of us was in a coffin.
The three brothers
We get chapters from each of the three Drumm brothers: William, Brian and Luke. The prologue hooks you in by revealing that one of the brothers is dead, then the story (which jumps in timeline to add to the feeling of unrest) as to how this happens unravels itself.
Will, the oldest brother, is a successful film producer. Arrogant and confident, he is used to life going his way and if it looks like it isn’t, he steps in to make sure it does. He is also highly charismatic – so you can see why so many people fall for his charms, despite his more salacious character traits.
Luke, the youngest brother, was the one I felt for the most. Battling mental health issues, he is catapulted to fame as a pop star in his early 20s, then has to deal with life when his star fades and people take advantage of him.
Brian could harbour grudges for weeks. I tended to blow up and down quickly.William
Brian was the most enigmatic character to me. A sort of hybrid of his brothers, I flipped between feeling sorry for him and hating him. This was a read that – in general – provoked strong emotional reactions in me (always a great sign). Alongside the drama and tense plot moments, there were times I laughed out loud too (when Will meets Bono springs to mind).
Three versions of reality
I really enjoyed how we got a POV from each brother. They all tell the same story of their lives together, but each has a very different take. This is clever storytelling that slowly reveals itself – my favourite kind.
Our Little Cruelties is also an exploration of sibling rivalry to the max. The brothers can’t communicate properly, resulting in tensions, jealousy and actions that you’d think they wouldn’t inflict on their worst enemies. Despite this – there is a family bond there and they remain tied to each other.
From the tantalising premise to the brilliant story conclusion, razor-sharp writing and characters that jump off the page at you, I loved Our Little Cruelties. I didn’t want it to be over. As dysfunctional as the Drumm family are, I really wanted to spend more time with them and see what they got up to next.