Review: Our Kind of Cruelty
Our Kind of Cruelty, Araminta Hall
Published May 8, 2018, MCD / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
This is a love story. Mike’s love story.
Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.
It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.
It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…
A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.
I didn't really understand the importance of this story until I came to the end.
It’s deeply uncomfortable to spend time inside the mind of someone who is delusional, obsessive, and whose experience with neglect and abuse has warped their sense of the world.
But that’s what the majority of this book is about- spending time with a man who progressively loses touch with reality more and more in his desire to reclaim the woman he’s obsessed with.
It’s not love. His pathological need for Verity is not love, and it’s only in our patriarchal society that we’ve been taught that a man’s single minded pursuit is romantic and not an unwelcome threat.
The courtroom scenes in last section of the book really get to the meat of the story, to how men are allowed such broad sexual agency and women are not.
It shows the way that context can be manipulated by legal representatives to create a narrative that’s best for their client, regardless of the truth.
Mild spoilers below:
I think Verity enjoyed sexual games, was bisexual, and while with Mike, appreciated that he never made her feel shameful about what turned her on.
I truly believe that she grew out of her relationship with Mike once she had some distance and could see how controlling he was. I think she genuinely loved Angus.
It broke my heart to see her actions turned against her in court. When she tries to explain that she agreed with Mike that she would leave Angus in order to get him to stop assaulting her these was declared “truth” that no women would have said those things unless she meant them. So many men don’t understand the all the terrible ways women have adopted in order to stay safe. The ways we stay kind, polite, pleasing because it genuinely feels like the best way to stay safe, to avoid being assaulted.
It’s very telling that lies that Mike uses at the end, which he even calls lies, are exaggerations of Verity’s sexual experiences.
My heart breaks for Verity.
And my heart breaks for the people who read this book and thought it was all a game for her.