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Monster Love by Carol Topolski
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Monster Love (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Carol Topolski

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140885,666 (3.85)31
Member:Booksloth
Title:Monster Love
Authors:Carol Topolski
Info:Penguin, Paperback, 261 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:Read in 2008

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Monster Love by Carol Topolski (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Disturbing? For the Oprah/Richard & Judy crowd, maybe. The circumstances surrounding the girl's death were just a little too monstrous, and that was before the killers became telepathic. Absurd. ( )
  Moomin_Mama | Oct 13, 2011 |
Brenda and Sherilyn never felt like they fitted in anywhere until they met each other. They always believed that no-one cared about them, or barely even noticed them, so when they first see each other, a instant bond is formed which is so strong that nobody can come between them - not even their own child. They have a daughter, but resent her intrusion into their lives so much that they take horrific measures to get rid of her.

There are no spoilers in this review, as it becomes obviously early on in this book that the Gutteridges have murdered their child in the most stomach churning fashion, and this book takes the reader through the circumstances leading up to the crime, their arrest and trial. It is narrated by several characters, including the neighbour who can't help wondering if she should have done something sooner; the harassed social worker who blames herself for not being more thorough; the police officer who stumbles upon the scene of the crime; Brenda and Sherilyn themselves, and their families.

The writing is, on the whole, excellent. Despite there being a large number of narrators, each one has their own distinct voice, and their stories really drew me in. They reflected the horror that we all feel when we read about such crimes and the bewilderment at how anybody could do such a thing. The first half of the book was more interesting to me, but the story did have me gripped throughout. There was one aspect which I found difficult to believe - this being the idea that Brendan and Sherilyn were so 'in tune' with each other that their minds became one, even when incarcerated separately. This was probably the only flaw in the book, although for other readers, it may serve to enhance the writing.

So, would I recommend it? In all honesty, I would hesitate to do so. As a piece of terrific and gripping writing, I definitely would, but make no mistake - this is a truly disturbing piece of writing, which plays on people's most basic fears. Definitely a book which makes a serious impact. ( )
  Ruth72 | Jan 24, 2011 |
A fabulously powerful story about a child cruelty and murder case, and the people – largely flawed, but all interesting – that surround and are affected by it.

I would recommend Monster Love to anyone for the writing in an instant, and yet the subject is one that makes me hesitate to recommend it at all – a paradoxical feeling that sums up the ambivalence of having discovered a book that tells a horrific story with absolute humanity and insight.

Sherilyn and Brendan seem like the perfect couple – a bit detached from everyone else, a bit distant, but obviously in love and at home with each other. Nothing comes between them. Not even their daughter. Topolski ruthlessly undoes the romantic notion of the ‘soulmate’, taking it to its tragic extremes… the origins that might create such a dependency, and the results of two people being the all-consuming obsession of one another.

Topolski’s voice changes with each of her narrators, adopting the concern, the disgust, the passion, the almost trivialised neglect, the foulness that creeps into the soul, unchecked and undetected; her ability to conjure something like this from all angles is masterful, as is her ability to summon empathy from an unwilling reader.

I think what I found most astonishing in Monster Love is that the shocking central event is entirely underplayed – reactions are not, but at no point does Topolski give into the need to embellish or dwell upon the child’s misery… in the stream of characters who step up to tell their story, never do we hear from Samantha – an exquisite highlighting of the parent’s achieved goal; to send their daughter back to the oblivion from which she was sent to ‘part’ them.

This book will unsettle and upset you, but not gratuitously. It will make you think about humanity and all the ways in which it can go wrong. And when you close it, you will be left undecided about whether you have read something horrible, or something wonderful. ( )
1 vote eleanor_eader | Oct 27, 2009 |
Monster Love wasn't a book I would normally have picked off the shelf but it came highly recommended by a friend whose reading judgement I trust so I was willing to give it a try. It was the slightly fuzzy photo of the angelic-looking child on the cover that put me off initially as it looked suspiciously like another example of misery-lit. In the end, I was so glad it had been recommended to me. This is a well-crafted novel about the aftermath of a child cruelty case. It soon becomes clear that the protagonists have appeared in court on cruelty charges involving their baby daughter. The story is told from the point of view of neighbours, social workers, police etc - all the people who have, in one way or another, been involved in the case. It isn't, however, one of those books that fights to get a tear of sympathy or a shriek of horror from the reader. It is subtle and understated and left me reeling. In many ways it reminded me of my favourite ever 'nasty little book', The Collector by John Fowles. It's several weeks now since I read Monster Love and it still haunts me. ( )
2 vote Booksloth | Nov 20, 2008 |
Absolutely harrowing but addictively gripping is the best way I can describe this book. Like other reviewers, there were times when I wondered if I'd be able to finish the book, but I could not resist returning to it again and again. The terrible story of a child's murder is told from the viewpoint of multiple persons - neighbours, family & colleagues of the murderous parents,as well as the parents themselves, and each voice is so convincing. The author has an astonishing ability to be able to write from the viewpoint of any character and convince us utterly that they are male or female, prison officer or abused wife.

I was not at all surprised to read that the author has a background in psychoanalysis. This book is absolutely saturated in Freudian theory. Unresolved parental conflicts, Oedipal abuse, classic defence mechanisms such as denial and regression (the protagonists sledging down the stairs on duvets, and Brendan's repeated enuresis during stressful times). Bowlby's ideas about maternal deprivation are realised as both Brendan and Sherilyn are presented as cold affectionless psychopaths. In fact the only people they ever get close to are each other, so close in fact that by the end of the book they no longer need each other's corporeal presence - instead they have all but merged into one person despite being separated in space.

The monster love of the title could refer to almost any character - most obviously Brendan and Sherilyn, but also the obsessively doting love of Sherilyn's mother for her sister, the monster that is Brendan's father: even the minor players such as James the paedophile seem to have encountered such monsterous love during their formative years that they are damaged forever. The whole messy family business brings to mind Larkin's 'This Be The Verse'. Horrific, unsettling and utterly compelling. As difficult as the subject matter is, I'd definitely look for more work by this author. ( )
  bibliobeck | Oct 1, 2008 |
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Epigraph
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day! - Samson Agonistes, John Milton
Dedication
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The baby was a dear little thing.
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Brendan and Sherilyn. A young couple in love. Each has met their soul mate, and nothing can come between them. In fact, the Gutteridges are so wrapped up in each other that their neighbours barely know them, despite the woman next door's nosy curiosity. Their families and their work colleagues see only the perfect couple in the perfect home, the perfect car crouching in the drive. And then a baby is born - contaminating this pristine life in which there is only room for two. But they find the ideal solution. What may be one couple's happy ending is everyone else's indescribable nightmare...Told through the Gutteridges' voices, and those of their families, neighbours, and those who will come across them in the aftermath, this perverse love story hurtles to the heart of evil - the evil that could be anyone's next door neighbour.… (more)

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