Louise Doughty: Whatever You Love (2010)

Two police officers knock on Laura’s door and her life changes forever. They tell her that her nine-year old daughter Betty has been hit by a car and killed. When justice is slow to arrive, Laura decides to take her own revenge. 

Whatever You Love is a book of raw emotions. And that from the first moment on when we read about the police knocking on Laura’s door to inform her that her daughter Betty has been killed. Laura is a very emotional woman, she feels everything that happens to her intensely, her reactions are very physical. There are many elements in the book that made me feel uneasy.

The loss of her daughter hits Laura like a cutting knife. The pain is sharp and unbearable. And she is all alone to deal with this as her husband has left her for another woman. After Laura has seen the body of her dead little girl, we go back in time with her to the days when she first met David, Betty’s father.

The early days of their relationship are very passionate, very sexual. David is a strange man, withholding feelings and caring at the same time and also with a love for dangerous behavior like on the day when he holds Laura over a cliff. He might have slipped at any moment or let her fall. Laura is shocked and fascinated at the same time, revolted and attracted.

While  she is pregnant with their second child, David meets Chloe. At the time when Betty is killed, he is married to Chloe and they have a baby boy. The end of David’s and Laura’s marriage is ugly. There are fights and jealous outbreaks by both women. Laura gets anonymous phone calls and letters. She never tells David but she is sure they are from Chloe. Once she threatens Chloe and it stops but when Betty is killed, it starts again.

Struggling to overcome her grief, Laura relives the loss of her husband and when she finally hears that the man who killed her daughter in a hit-and run has been let go by the police, she freaks out and decides to take revenge.

From that moment on I thought I knew what was going to happen but I was quite wrong. Things turned out very different from what I expected.

I read this at super speed. I was very captivated. It is well written and has a nice pace that drags you along. There is a lot to identify with even if you have no children. It makes you think about relationships, the end of infatuation, adultery, family, raw and contradictory feelings and emotions like guilt, loss, jealousy and passion. What I liked best about the novel is the fact that there are no easy answers and the characters are complex with some very contradictory traits.