Published On: Tue, Aug 29th, 2017

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent – review

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (4th Estate, £12.99)

 He fully believes that the apocalypse is on the horizon, so they are sequestered away on the Californian coast in a bare-to-the-bones house. 

Turtle can strip a gun and rebuild it, and she navigates beautiful, bountiful nature on her wonder-filled wanderings in the surrounding woodlands and tidal pools.

But she is malnourished, wracked with self-loathing, her “long legs barred black and green with bruises” from her father’s beatings.

For a long time she’s conflicted about all that she has to bear and loyal to Martin (“she can’t bear that anyone else should see something he’s done wrong”).

But then she meets Jacob, a sweet, sunny neighbour who is smitten with her and fascinated by her self-sufficiency. And when Martin brings another small girl into their household, she begins to understand the desperate wrongness of the situation, and starts to muster the physical and emotional courage to plan her escape.

This is a fierce, insightful, gorgeously written debut but it’s in no way an easy read. Tallent’s prose is outstanding, vivid and poetic, and especially luminous in his descriptions of the natural world – a bleak contrast to his account of Turtle’s harrowing suffering. 

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