Publication Date: June 13th from Titan
Source: Review Copy
Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.
As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.
When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Because I am huge fan of Shakespeare and all that entails this book worked for me on every level. I lived this book and loved it. It is a homage to the bard and of course an atmospheric, beautifully layered and indomitably emotional story in its own right.
When you get sucked into a book to the extent that you feel the characters are quite quite real, when everything that happens is authentic and easily believable – when you get so involved that you do get angry and sad and all the emotional levels in between, that is when you know you’ve found one of “those” books. If We Were Villains is one of “those” books for me.
The comparisons to The Secret History (which I feel I should mention here) are for once quite valid, but shoot me if you like, I much preferred this. I’m not a fan of Tartt’s occasionally pretentious and seemingly self absorbed writing style that lacks any sense of editing, its not that I didn’t enjoy The Secret History or appreciate the talented prose I did, but it banged on interminably at times taking 5000 words to get as much depth into the action as M L Rio manages here in mere paragraphs. So as a very subjective thing for me this was much better. Plus I should probably say its similarities are less than its differences so any comparisons made are on the surface.
I read If We Were Villains in 4 hours stopping only for caffeine hits and got entirely caught up in this insular, elite and yes pretentious world of a group of theatre students whose friendship, love and obsession leaks off the stage and into their personal interactions. The author uses Shakespeare both allegorically and practically – the language they speak, the way they form ties, its all beautifully written and stunningly addictive. The last paragraph shot me off my chair, so perfectly clever was it, having been lulled into the ebb and flow of a novel that seemed to be done with me at that point suddenly going ha ha NO now you will think of me always. And I will.
This is going to be a book I return to again and again. For its rich language, its incredibly divisive characters and its beautiful tribute to the work of Shakespeare, a man who formed the basis of a whole lot of our pop culture language use today. For me it was spot on perfect.
Follow the Tour!