Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

I feel awful, but I have forgotten which lovely publicist contacted me on Twitter to see if I’d like a copy and then sent me Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent in return for an honest review. I very much appreciate it, so if it was you and you’re reading this – thank you!

I love Liz’s writing and have previously reviewed Lying In Wait here, having interviewed Liz about it here. I also reviewed Unravelling Oliver here.

Strange Sally Diamond was published by Penguin on 2nd March 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Strange Sally Diamond

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 Review of Strange Sally Diamond

Sally is disposing of her dead father.

Strange Sally Diamond is claustrophobic, unsettling and an absolutely cracking read that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

The plot is terrifying; partly because of the major and unusual events which are presented so realistically and convincingly, and partly because of the very ordinariness of some aspects that force the reader to confront what they think they know is happening in their own locale. I don’t want to spoil the read with too much detail, but I thought the book’s finale was realistic, powerful and disturbing. 

There are hugely tough issues in Strange Sally Diamond with physical and emotional cruelty, social manipulation and incredible harm and blame, so that at times I felt almost tainted by reading the narrative. This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement of the immense skill and power in Liz Nugent’s writing. Similarly, she explores prosaic themes like family and friendship, homemaking and work, but with an incredible eye for dysfunction, normality and balance so that it feels as if all life is present in the book. It has the effect of getting under the reader’s skin and drawing them into the narrative.

What Liz Nugent does so scarily is to make the reader invested in characters that are monstrous. Peter should be someone to abhor, and he is, but equally, he is presented in a such a way that it is impossible not to feel sorry for him as we realise why he is as he is. Strange Sally Diamond examines the dilemma of nature versus nurture and leaves the reader’s mind whirling.

I thought Sally herself was outstanding. She’s a victim whom we care about but there’s an underlying unease too so that she feels flawed and unpredictable, making her truly fascinating. Given that trust, in all its connotations, is a major theme of the book, as much as I loved meeting Sally Diamond, I’m not sure I ever felt entirely safe and relaxed in her company, despite her emotional progress, her social vulnerability and the balancing humour she adds to the narrative. Diamond is the perfect name for her. She is rough cut, becomes more polished but retains a deep flaw or two!

Strange Sally Diamond is dark, delicious and devastating. It has all the Liz Nugent trademark insight into the darkest crevices of her characters’ minds presented in a filmic, compelling narrative that will be difficult to forget.  I loved it.  

About Liz Nugent

Liz was born in Dublin in 1967, where she now lives. She has written successfully for soap opera, radio drama, television plays, short stories and animation for children.

Liz’s first novel Unravelling Oliver was published to critical and popular acclaim in March 2014. It quickly became a firm favourite with book clubs and reader’s groups. In November of that year, it went on to win the Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year at the Bord Gais Energy Book Awards and was long listed for the International Dublin Literature Prize 2016. She was also the winner of the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary provided by the Irish Writers Centre and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Dec 2014. Her second novel, Lying in Wait, was published in July 2016 and went straight to number 1 where it remained for seven weeks. Liz won the Monaco Bursary from the Ireland Funds and was Writer in Residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco in Sept/Oct 2016. In Nov 2016, Lying in Wait won the prestigious RTE Ryan Tubridy Listener’s Choice prize at the Irish Book Awards.

Aside from writing, Liz has led workshops in writing drama for broadcast, she has produced and managed literary salons and curated literary strands of Arts Festivals. She regularly does public interviews and panel discussions on all aspects of her writing.

You can follow Liz Nugent on Twitter @lizzienugent and visit her website for further information. You’ll also find Liz on Instagram and Facebook.

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