Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

I’ve had a run on reading new to me authors these past few months and I’ve been really enjoying it. I picked up Strange Sally Diamond after seeing a load of rave reviews over it. It’s the first book I’ve read by the author but it won’t be the last. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 02 March 2023
Publisher: Sandycove

About the Book

Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.

Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she cannot remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends and big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.

But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world? And why does her neighbour seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged . . .

My Thoughts

As I said earlier, I’ve never read any books by Liz Nugent before. I’ve seen her on panels at festivals and the like, and I’ve no doubt I have at least one of her earlier books on my kindle but, in many ways, I’m glad that Strange Sally Diamond has been my first read. if you read the Amazon categorisation, this is billed as Irish Crime, or a Psychological Thriller. Many reviews bill it as such too, and as dark and twisted, and there is no doubt that some elements of the book, particularly in the second half, are of a very dark and perhaps even disturbing nature. But I think if you approach this book thinking of it as simply a psychological thriller, then you are missing some of the beauty of the narrative and the true heart and soul of the story – the awakening, if you like, of Sally Diamond.

Sally is a forty year old woman who has, what has been termed by characters in the book, social deficiencies. Understandably so as we navigate the complexities of Sally’s world. Home schooled, isolated and with no friends outside of her home, she has missed many lessons in social etiquette, is blunt and forthright in her communication and lacks any comprehension of what is deemed acceptable in social situations. This in itself leads to many humorous, and some embarrassing, situations, but also leads to a natural suspicion and distancing of the local townsfolk on the few occasions that Sally does venture from her home.

All of that is set to change when, following what she believes to be her fathers last wishes, Sally does something that puts her front and centre in the media spotlight and sets off a whole chain of life changing events. There was revelations made, secrets that are shared in her father’s last letters to Sally, which go much of the way to explaining Sally’s character traits and why she has no memory of her earliest years. It is in these revelations, and the scenes that unfold in the latter part of the book, that the darkness in the book is brought forth, but whilst we have little doubt of the cruelty that is meted out on certain characters in the book, it is kept largely off the page, told almost anecdotally, although in no way lacking gravitas as a result.

I liked Sally, liked her honesty and her very simple and unfiltered way of viewing the world. She says what many of us probably would if we weren’t so conscious of upsetting others. There is no malice intended, in fact there is an almost childlike simplicity in her view of life. Everything is literal and watching Sally navigate her new found friendships with the aid of her therapist, actually leads to some rather witty observations, even if Sally is unaware of that herself. She is a very acutely observed character, and Liz Nugent has done a brilliant job of capturing her innocence and contrasting that with an almost uncontrollable rage, the root cause of which we slowly, and shockingly, come to understand.

This is a book of two halves. The first is exclusively about Sally, but as we move into the second part of the book we come to understand that Sally’s past, the secrets that have been kept from her, have consequences which reach further than anyone knew. There is an enduring creepiness and tension which flows through the pages, and as we come to understand the full depths of depravity that caused Sally’s present situation, we are introduced to another character who induces both sympathy and rage. How their story ties back to Sally, we as readers understand far sooner than anyone in the book, and with the story moving back and forth between past and present, the missing parts of Sally’s past are slowly filled in.

Strange Sally Diamond is the kind of story that elicits a myriad emotions. Rage, sympathy, compassion, disbelief. It will make you life, perhaps cry, and it will make your heart ache for Sally. If you are looking for a straight up dark, psych thriller, I’d say this is not it. If you are looking for a far more nuanced thriller, one which digs deep into what makes and drives the way in which a character’s personality is shaped an informed by their environment, one that beautifully captures the life of a very complex but engaging character, this will be right up your street.

About the Author

Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in film, theatre and television. Her four novels – Unravelling OliverLying in WaitSkin Deep and Our Little Cruelties have each been Number One bestsellers and she has won four Irish Book Awards, as well as the James Joyce Medal for Literature. She lives in Dublin.

3 thoughts on “Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

    1. I’ll check it out. Think I’ve got it in my kindle. This was such a great read. Kind of chuckled at the start thinking that would have been a good way to get rid of my Mum. I’m the end we went with a straight up cremation with ‘Ding Dong the Witch is dead’ as her going off music (her request) 🤣

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