Book Review: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent


Tallent’s My Absolute Darling is, as evidenced by the cover, a New York Times bestseller.

When I read the excerpt rather quickly, my initial understanding was that I was embarking on a story with a representation of the “wild woman” trope. A trope which never ceases to fascinate me. I imagined a novel akin to Owens’ Where The Crawdads Sing.

Tallent definitely subverted my expectations. By chapter four, my heart was in my throat and the abuse of Turtle was too intense for my taste. I didn’t even know if I could take much more of it and thought I would be unable to finish the book. I almost never bail on books as there as always something to learn or reflect upon (even if it’s just why I dislike it).

The descriptions of the natural world in this book are absolutely beautiful. In the same vein as Where the Crawdads Sing, you feel as if you can see, touch and smell the surroundings. These descriptions are in vivid contrast to the plot which is oh-so-very violent: sexually, emotionally and physically.

The inner monologue of Turtle rips out your soul although it is completely realistic when you consider the life she lives and the loss she negotiates.

At one point, I was reading and hoping for some sort of redemption to occur or at the very least, the beginnings of a plan for revenge. When it didn’t come, I decided I had to put it down.

Strangely, not knowing Turtle’s fate was haunting me and I worried that if I didn’t finish it, it would simply remain present in my mind. I picked it back up and re-entered the world with trepidation. I don’t want to spoil the ending but it’s realistic.

I would only advise you to read this book if you enjoy dark fiction. It was a somewhat traumatic novel to read and I don’t think I would be able to read it a second time but Tallent is definitely an author to look out for. He writes beautifully and despite my resistance to this novel, i have to say that his portrayal is extremely well rendered.

I gave it four black hearts but see it as the equivalent of four stars (due to the vivid portrayal of the protagonist, other characters and the overall quality of the narrative) but it should include a whole page of trigger warnings.


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