‘Put me out with the bins’, he said, regularly.
‘When I die, put me out with the bins. I’ll be dead, so I won’t know any different’
– Strange Sally Diamond
[ About the Book ]
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 ]
Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent published with Sandycove (Penguin) March 2nd and was selected as a recommended read on the BBC 2 Between the Covers 2023, with Sara Cox describing it as ‘incredible’. Liz Nugent is known for her superb plots with a global fan base who now expect a dramatic opening hook. In Strange Sally Diamond we certainly get that opener when we read that Sally Diamond put her father out with the rubbish after he died!
Strange Sally Diamond is an unexpectedly disconcerting and dark tale about a young woman who was reared in rather extraordinary circumstances. Sally had lived all her life under the guidance and protection of parents who looked out for her every step of the way. She was always an outcast, always socially different when compared to her peers, but over the years she had grown comfortable enough living in her own skin. Sally never questioned her quirky behaviour, putting it down to just the way she was. Sally had lived an extremely sheltered life in a rural setting. Following the death of her mother, her father and herself managed along in their own way, with a very set routine and living a functioning existence.
When Sally’s father took ill, he knew his time was coming very fast so he used to jokingly say to Sally that when his number was up, she was to put him out with the rubbish. Even he didn’t think that Sally would take him literally. But she did. Sally Diamond was considered by many as neurodivergent. She was very much black and white in her interpretation and analysis so to Sally, her father’s remark was never a joke. For Sally it was a genuine request. It made logical sense to her. It was a straightforward task to wrap him up and take him to their own domestic incinerator. It was practical and a cost-effective method of disposal.
But Sally completely misjudged her action and once word spread, she drew the glare of the public and the media. Who would do such a shocking and bizarre act? What kind of person was Sally Diamond? The press had a field day and Sally was very quickly informed of the error of her ways. With a police investigation under way, Sally immediately finds herself in an adult world, one that she had been buffered from before. She is forced to step out into the community with some locals understandably fearful of her. But, with time, folk realised that, albeit Sally was strange, she was a kind person who had just had a very unusual upbringing.
With help from a family friend, Sally slowly begins to unravel her past. Each step forward in the community is a big undertaking for Sally. She is initially slow to trust people and her inability to empathise making her an unusual companion. Sally had never really questioned her roots or her personality until now. When she receives an unexpected item in the post, her world is torn apart with revelations of a dark and sinister story. Sally Diamond knew she was a unique individual, a loner, a strange person but she never ever knew why…until now. As the true horror reveals itself, through a parallel storyline, we are taken into the world of a depraved individual, a world that will sicken and discombobulate any reader.
When I picked up Strange Sally Diamond, I was expecting a quirky Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine experience with a Liz Nugent twist. But, let me be clear, this is nothing like Eleanor Oliphant. This novel goes to some very dark places so do be prepared. I did feel that certain sections were inconceivable and, at times, the dialogue felt very stilted. I could appreciate Sally Diamond’s character being quite upright in speech and mannerism, but for others, in the parallel story, I just found it very hard to accept. I love Liz Nugent’s writing so I am finding it very difficult to pinpoint what it was that I just could not connect with. I had no empathy for any individual and, although shocking reading in many chapters, it left me cold.
Strange Sally Diamond is definitely a sinister and claustrophobic tale, a book not easily forgotten due to the depiction of some truly vile and heinous behaviour. Definitely not to everyone’s taste, Strange Sally Diamond, is a book that left me in awe at the lengths that Liz Nugent must have had to go to in her research but I was, and still am, conflicted with my response. Liz Nugent is clearly a brilliant writer with a fantastic turn of phrase and great plotting so this might just possibly be a case of the wrong book for me.
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this one if you have read it already.
[ Bio ]
Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in film, theatre and television. Her five novels – Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait, Skin Deep, Our Little Cruelties and Strange Sally Diamond have each been Number One bestsellers and she has won four Irish Book Awards, as well as the James Joyce Medal for Literature. She lives in Dublin.
Twitter ~ @lizzienugent
I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you, Mairéad.
It was really odd as I love L Nugent normally but I just could not connect at all.
I had the same experience with a Lucy Atkins the other day. I really wanted to love it but I just didn’t. Can’t love them all, I guess ♀️
That was supposed to be a shrug emoji
I know…but when everyone else seems to love the particular book I’m wondering is it me?!? But yes I guess…we certainly can’t love them all Kelly x
I read it on holiday expecting the usual twists. It was an easy read and I did find myself wondering how the plot would pan out. I agree it was dark probably not the ideal holiday read but I finished within a reasonable time a good sign of a good book for me as it kept me engaged.
Lynda I never have an issue with a dark book but something just felt very much off-kilter with this one. It didn’t flow for me like L Nugent normally does. Unfortunately just one of those that didn’t agree as much as with others. I read it really fast but no connection made at all. Wrong book I guess