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.

30 thoughts on “Louise Doughty: Whatever You Love (2010)

    • Read at the wrong time it could be quite a downer. I thought it was fascinating. I like conflicting emotions. And nobody has been abused. Quite a change for this type of novel.

  1. I’ve heard good things about this novel, only I do mostly avoid fiction that involves dead children, when written about from the parents’ point of view. Siri Hustvedt traumatised me years ago with her novel, What I Loved, and I haven’t been able to face that particular plotline since. Lovely review, though, Caroline.

    • Thanks, Litlove. I do find it equally difficult to read even though I have no children. I cannot imagine anything more awful than losing a child. It is captured very well, the phases one would go through. I can alos understand how someone marriages do not survive the loss of a child. This isn’t the case here, of course.

    • I wouldn’t advise anyone who is going through either the one or the other to read it. But it is well done. I will try another one of her books. I think what made me feel uneasy are the conflicting emotions and to realize how familiar they are…

    • The circumstances she has to deal with are incredibly difficult. What made it such a fast read is the fact that it is also quite suspenseful.
      Oh, I’m so glad to hear that you like “Making Toast”. I really liked it.

  2. I was thinking as I read your review that it might be too intense emotionally, and I am having a hard time reading books that are very emotional at the moment, but as my library owns this one I might try it anyway. Does she drag you through an emotional ringer or is it just compelling enough you keep reading in any case?

    • I think you will fnd it compelling. You can very well read it as a psychological thriller. To be honest, the story about her husband leaving her, stressed me more than the loss of her daughter. I didn’t think it was depressing.

  3. It sounds really intense, emotionally speaking. Your last description of the book made me curious…what happened to the man that it was out of your prediction…but telling that will be a major spoiler I supposed.

  4. Pingback: Whatever You Love (kill). « Books and Bowel Movements

  5. The cover seems well picked. I thought initially it would be about a child murder, but in fact it’s worse because car accidents are so much likelier in real life. We can take comfort that murder will almost certainly never touch our lives. We can’t take that comfort with random accidents.

    I agree with Guy. It sounds like it would make an excellent film. It does sound well crafted though on its own terms.

    • You are absoluetely right. The car accident is something that could happen to all of us or the people (and also animals) we love. I felt I could identify with this without having chidlren. It’s quite a complex story, even more so, the longer I think about it. It has many layers. What is very interesting and what I cannot imagine in the movie is how guilt is passed on. From whatever angle you look at this story and its elements someone else seems guilty.

  6. Pingback: Best and Worst Books 2011 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  7. Pingback: Louise Doughty: Apple Tree Yard (2013) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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