Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent

Blog tour: 11 January to 12 February 2021


Three brothers are at the funeral.
One lies in the coffin.

Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother’s unequal love. As men, the competition continues – for status, money, fame, women …

They each betray one another, over and over, until one of them is murdered.

But which one?

My review

Told from the viewpoints of three brothers, William, Brian and Luke, Our Little Cruelties is a fascinating look at the disturbing dynamics of the Drumm family. The novel tells the story of the brothers from early childhood in 1976 to the untimely death of one of the men in March 2018. We know from the funeral scene at the beginning of the book that one brother has come to a nasty end, but we don’t know which one.

We first hear from the oldest brother, William, who has his own film production company, a wife called Susan and a daughter, Daisy. Next up is Luke, a singer in a band, who is also an addict and has lots of mental health problems. As a child, he got very into religion and behaved quite strangely and has a difficult relationship with his mother. Brian is the middle brother and the more non-descript one – he bounces between William and Luke, trying to stay involved in their lives and syphon money off them where he can.

The boys’ mother, Melissa, was 15 years younger than their father (who died when the boys were in their mid/late teens), and she was a showband singer and actress and even years after the peak of her career, she still expected people to know who she was. She’s quite selfish and self-absorbed, and has been affected by events in her past.

The brothers are all really close in age: Brian was born 14 months after William and their mother was pregnant with Luke two months after that. As a result, they’ve always battled for their parents’ affections, particularly from their mother, who doesn’t treat them all the same. The brothers are all rather selfish and take each other for granted. They’re jealous and competitive and always trying to outdo each other, often in a nasty way.

The timeline hops about and, as the story progressed, I found myself flicking back to earlier sections to compare each brother’s view of what had happened. It was interesting to see the same events from each of their perspectives as things often varied wildly! I imagine the truth was a combination of the experiences of all three! I’m curious to know the logic to the timeline and the order of the chapters – I couldn’t figure out how it all fitted together but it worked very well!

Overall, I really enjoyed this fascinating character-driven novel about a rather dysfunctional family, none of whom seemed to actually like each other very much! The family dynamics are very intriguing and they all seem to have very unhealthy relationships with each other and with other people. The brothers are unpleasant and all damaged to some extent and it makes uncomfortable reading at times, especially their treatment of women and Luke’s mental health issues.

This was an intriguing, well-layered and cleverly plotted novel. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle where you have to try and put all the pieces together but they don’t always fit! We’re only told a third of the story each time, from a specific angle. The truth is somewhere in the middle of the recollections of all three men. It makes for a compelling, if disturbing, read. I almost feel like going back to the beginning and start the book again, to see how everything plays out once I know what actually happens.

This was the first book by Liz Nugent that I’ve read but I’ve got all her others on my shelves so will definitely be picking up another one soon!

Buy the book

Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in Irish film, theatre and television. Her four novels – Our Little Cruelties, Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait and Skin Deep – have each been number one bestsellers in Ireland and she has won four Irish book awards (two for Skin Deep). She lives in Dublin with her husband.

Twitter: @lizzienugent
Instagram: @liznugentwriter
Website: http://www.liznugent.ie

Blog tour

Thanks to Ellie Hudson at Viking Books for my copy of Our Little Cruelties and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banners below for more stops on the #blogtour.


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