At first read, Almost Love by Louise O’Neill seems to center itself around Sarah Fitzpatrick’s “relationship” (if shitty sometimes-sex equates a relationship) with the emotionally unavailable, super chauvinistic scum Matthew Brennan, but with O’Neill at the helm you can bet that there’s a lot more than unrequited obsession at play.
Matthew Brennan is a super-rat.
Matthew is older than Sarah. He’s wealthy, successful, good looking… and a total dick. Matthew only meets Sarah in “their” hotel room where they have one-sided, and usually painful, sex. He keeps their relationship a secret, makes empty promises, hides behind his oh-so-busy work schedule, believes women aren’t funny (nor should they try to be), thinks all women should be blonde… Need I go on?
Sure, Matthew is scum, albeit in a handsome and rich wrapper, and his relationship with Sarah is without a doubt toxic, but Sarah’s own toxicity is pretty busy laying waste to everything else around her – all seemingly rooted from an undeveloped sense of self, and complete lack of ability to take any responsibility for her current state of unhappiness.
Though Sarah moved to Dublin from a small town to attend a prestigious art college, we find her as a late 20-something teaching a children’s art class, and unable to create anything herself. With her own creative career going no where fast, she lashes out at anyone within caring distance and actively cuts down the happiness of those around her. Because if Sarah’s miserable, shouldn’t everyone else be too?
Sarah’s story is a cautionary one. Deeply unhappy and completely unsure of who she is, she’s left vulnerable to the likes of Matthew – a manipulative ass who has a sixth sense for women who haven’t realized their worth.
Even so, the reality is that Sarah has fallen down a rabbit hell hole of her own making.
But as we watch Sarah fall deeper and deeper, we see a different story unfold: how far will Sarah fall before she finds herself?
Ah, and a note to women who are still answering that question for themselves – steer clear of super-rats like Matthew Brennan.