Almost Love by Louise O’Neill
Genres: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Published by Riverrun on March 1st 2018
Read Hardcover, 314 pages
(3.5 / 5)
Summary (via Goodreads)
When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
I definitely have conflicting feelings on this book. While I wanted to love it and I could not wait to pick it up each time I had a moment to read, I think what has me conflicted is how the book ended, but before we get to the end, let’s start with the beginning.
First, the title. I really liked the play on the title- “almost love,” which I think captured how the concept and the action of love was (and can be) constantly misconstrued and twisted into something that really is not love at all.
Next, what I perceive to be the overall messages of the book (in my opinion): you cannot measure your self-worth by others and you have to love yourself not based on how others love (or do not love) you. The main character of Sarah has this difficulty with her relationships- both romantic and non-romantic, though I argue more with her romantic relationships. With the division of the book between “Then” and “Now,” as a reader, you can see how her past relationship with Matthew, the man twenty years older than she, creeps through the present with her current boyfriend. There is this vicious cycle of her self-defeating and toxic behavior that makes her a very unhappy individual, yet she cannot seem to break the cycle out of a fear of not being loved. I think whether one is in a romantic relationship or not, this is something many struggle with, a fear of not being loved and trying to do anything to have that feeling fulfilled, and the author really captured that fear through Sarah and her relationships. Whether it be pleasing Matthew by focusing on only his desires or needing to go beyond what she had with Matthew with her current boyfriend, Sarah as a character really struggled to love herself outside of her relationships- and even in her relationships.
Sarah is a frustrating character, not because she struggles her self-worth and how she loves (or doesn’t love) herself, but more so how she takes out her feelings in her romantic relationships on others. She is quite the shitty friend more so than not, which I can see the reality behind it and can understand to an extent. We all go through our moments where we struggle with one (or more) aspect(s) of life and end up not being the greatest of friends to others; however, I think the issue I had with this is that by the end of the book, there was definitely a lack of growth on Sarah’s part. Granted, I do believe that at the end she was starting to grow, but it just was not enough growth for me for a 300+ page book. Even the ending, without spoiling it, I feel like the tiny amount of growth she had made at the end was almost immediately retracted. Then again, one could argue that the way the book ended was realistic and I can see that. Not everyone makes substantial growth, especially characters in a work of fiction, but with the two points I took away from the book, I would have liked a bit more to the ending by positively approaching those two points. But again, it could be argued that it is not always the most realistic case.
Overall, while I did not fall head over heels for the book, I again still could not wait to pick it up and again, the messages behind the story are ones that I believe are important and the portrayal of the struggles with self-worth and self-love are very realistic.