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Whatever You Love: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“This exquisitely calibrated depiction of one mother’s grief and rage will hold you spellbound.” (Parade)

“[A] pulse-quickening literary thriller.” (Marie Claire)

“A gripping and heart-wrenching novel.” (National Examiner)

“You never wonder about character motivation; [Doughty’s] treatment of the reasons behind each event is so thorough that even the strangest circumstances become understandable.” (Bust Magazine)

“Masterful. . . . This deeply psychological story, told in first person, recalls some of the best of Gothic literature. . . . But unlike Gothic fiction, love lies at the heart of this story. . . . Gorgeously structured.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

[A] fiercely nuanced novel about love and loss. . . . Reminiscent of Alina Bronsky’s Broken Glass Park, this portrait of a mother’s disintegration and gradual coming to terms with her new reality is a powerful depiction of love, loss, and retribution.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Seldom have the subjects of love, loss, and retribution been treated with such emotional power as they are here. Award winning English author Doughty, who is intrigued by the effects of accidents, has written a masterfully structured novel that is as indelible as it is painful.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A heartfelt and affecting story.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Gripping, absorbing, beautifully constructed, and written with great sensitivity.” (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall)

“Like Zoe Heller, Doughty is masterful at combining the texture of ordinary, smugly middle-class, contemporary life with the hidden cliff edges of violence and hatred.” (Sunday Telegraph)

“An incident-packed, emotionally fraught revenge tragedy. . . . Emotionally raw, sexually frank, psychologically unpredictable.” (The Guardian)

“A powerful portrait of loss and its psychological consequences.” (Independent)

“An unflinching reckoning with sudden, unbearable loss and obsessive vengeance. . . . Both elegy and thriller. . . . Doughty’s success lies in how intimately she engages readers to face, with Laura, the dailyness of tragedy and the ways in which suffering can blind us to our culpabilities.” (Boston Globe)

From the Back Cover

"I study the photo in the same way that a spy might study the face of a counterpart in a rival organization. I am calm as I make this promise: I am going to find out what you love, then whatever it is, I am going to track it down and I am going to take it away from you."

After the death of Laura's nine-year-old daughter, Betty, is ruled an accident in a hit-and-run, Laura decides to take revenge into her own hands, determined to track down the man responsible. All the while, her inner turmoil is reopening the old wounds of her passionate love affair with Betty's father, David, and his abandonment of the family for another woman.

Haunted by her past and driven to a breaking point by her thirst for retribution, Laura discovers the unforeseen lengths she is willing to go to for love and vengeance.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062094661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062094667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
The emotional devastation of losing a child is pervasive in Doughty's moving novel, a landscape revealed in sections of "Before" and "After", before police officers make a pronouncement that forever alters Laura Needham's life, "after" bleak and colorless, filled with searing grief and the absence of nine-year-old Betty, "after" the accident that erases a short existence on earth. Before and after also define Laura's marriage to David Needham, the all-consuming love of a man with whom she has two children, a man now with a new woman and a new baby, drawn close only in tragedy. If Laura has gradually accepted the diminishing of her expectations with David, it is thanks to her children and the bond she shares with thoughtful young Betty. But any semblance of reconciliation with normalcy is shattered by the child's death, a vortex of pain so deep that Laura can barely navigate the day to day obligations of caring for her young son.

Unerringly, Doughty inhabits her protagonist in striking tableaux: the frantic wait for a child's return; authorities pounding at the door; David's howl as mother and father view their daughter's lifeless body; Laura seeking respite in Betty's bed; her surveillance of the driver who hit two hapless schoolgirls; and a mother's realization that "the loss of what we love belongs to us forever". Insightful and deeply moving, Doughty plunges into the fearful places where nightmares dwell, the atavistic responses of one so grievously wounded that retaliation seems reasonable and the painful fact that contracts made so easily in the blush of passion appear foolish in its aftermath. Grief and retribution unleashed drive this brilliantly rendered tale, insights painted in the colors of flesh and blood, the imprint of loss forever carved on a mother's heart. Luan Gaines/2012.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Marvi on May 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a parent who also lost a child to an accident, I was (somewhat fearfully) interested in a depiction of how another mother's life was changed by what happened. I thought Doughty handled the actual loss--the shock, the "calmness," the obsession, the inability to eat, sleep, etc.--very well. But I felt Laura's "revenge" was so sordid and self-destructive that it robbed her character and story of any of the respect and power it deserved, and that lost me as a reader too. By the end, I couldn't care about any one in this sorry family.

Overall, good writing, but to what purpose?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Rodney on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book in one day, as it was impossible to put down. I finished it late at night and woke up the next a.m. thinking about things in it that I overlooked while reading. Small details came together to provide a complete and shattering picture. I can't get it out of my mind, what better tribute to an author?
I think it was superbly written, the author takes you along on the journey of a shattered heart, mind and life without once becoming maudlin or weepy.
A note worth mentioning: the promos for the book present it as a book solely of revenge, but this is inaccurate. The revenge plot takes up a very small part of the story, near the end. It is the story of a family, of love, of devastation. All the while there is a sense of mystery and something lingering just around the corner that you can't see yet. I loved it and will seek out this authors other books today. If you enjoy character-centered books, you will love this one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Darlene @ Peeking Between the Pages on May 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty is a dark and powerful novel. It illuminates a parent's worst fear; that of losing a child. Laura doesn't lose her daughter Betty to an illness but in a hit and run accident. Laura's life is sent into a tailspin that grows increasingly more out of control when she learns that the hit and run is being ruled as an accident. How could it be an accident when she no longer has her precious daughter in her arms? It isn't good enough for Laura and she begins to plot her revenge.

When Laura opens the door to the police officers she knows it can't be good news - it never is, is it? When she hears the news she just can't wrap her mind around what they are trying to tell her. Even as they take her to the hospital to see her daughter she still isn't really comprehending what has happened. Reality does hit though and then the grief consumes her. For Laura her children Betty and Rees have been her everything since her divorce from her husband David but especially Betty as she was nine years old and Laura's co-conspirator against David's new wife Chloe. As the days, weeks, and months pass Laura is completely consumed by the loss of Betty. Along the way she learns little bits that the driver was speeding and this drives her into even more of a rage.

This whole novel is consuming. It really is amazing how much information the author managed to relay in this book without it ever feeling to be too much. We learn about Laura's childhood and her struggles with her sick mother. We get a view of the relationship that Laura and David have had since they first met and the pain and struggles that happened when David strayed.
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