My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent


My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling is the story of Turtle Alveston, a 14 year old girl who lives with her father Martin in a run down and isolated house beside the coast in Northern California. Martin is a widow and Turtle's mother is said to have drowned when she was small, but her grandfather also lives in a caravan on the property and she appears to get on well with him.

At the beginning of the book Turtle has no friends and is very rigidly controlled by her father who is a philosophy reading eco-warrior, and a brutal survivalist. He is obsessed with guns and taught Turtle to shoot at the age of 6. Turtle is independent, struggles at school and knows how to survive. However for the reader it is hard to really get to know Turtle because the life she has led has made her silent and insular. She loves her father, seems to accept that she cannot escape but also longs to be free of him. This leads her to push the boundaries he sets which inevitably lays her open to abusive retaliation.

Things change for Turtle when she rescues two boys called Jacob and Brett who are lost on a hike.  They are a funny double act who accept her as she is and manage to penetrate her reserve. For the first time in her life she has friends and it is a massive understatement to say that this situation does not go down at all well with Martin.

When Gabriel Tallent first started writing the book it was meant to be about ecological disaster but although the main subject matter eventually changed dramatically, the book does still retain some wonderful descriptions about the landscape and nature.  Turtle goes hiking through the countryside, goes crabbing with her grandfather, catches eels with Jacob, and catches and eats Scorpions with a little girl called Cayenne who her father brings home one day. Occasionally the descriptions are hard to follow, for example when Jacob and Turtle get caught in some sort of strange tide and nearly drown, but on the whole I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

Overall though, My Absolute Darling is not an easy book to read.  In fact, I had to mentally prepare myself every time I picked it up. That isn't to say that I didn't like it, although opinions were mixed amongst our book club members, because once I was reading it I was inevitably sucked in to the story. I loved the descriptions of the Californian landscape, and I was very invested in Turtle's story. However, Martin is often extremely abusive and cruel and it can be challenging to read. It was impossible to tell how the book was going to end but it was clear throughout that the story was hurtling towards a shattering conclusion.

Reviewed by Alison Walker

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent!  

Hannah Gough