Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent – review

Published by Penguin Sandycove

Publication date – 2 March 2023

Source – review copy

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 . . .

When Sally Diamond decides to incinerate her dead father she becomes the centre of attention after hiding away for years. Not only are the police and press interested but she receives contact from a mysterious stranger who knows more about the past Sally can’t remember. Who is the stranger and what are Sally’s true origins?

Liz Nugent’s books are always guaranteed to start with an opening that knocks you sideways and draws you in. Strange Sally Diamond is no different, with Sally leaving her dead father out with the bins. Because that’s what he had told her to do.

Sally is “socially deficient”, her words, not mine, and doesn’t understand nuance, sarcasm or how people work really.  Sally is definitely a product of her upbringing. Although her father didn’t want to label her, she is neuro-divergent. She has been kept from society, again more of her father’s wish than that of her mother. It leaves her adrift when they both die. She has had that grounding since she went to live with the Diamonds at 6 years old. She remembers nothing of her life before then, and it becomes soon apparent why that is the case.

There were times I had to stop reading, as I got too angry to continue. There are no end of ways humans can be cruel to each other and this book explores a particularly evil way. If there was such an offence as murder of a fictional character, I would have happily committed the offence and pleaded guilty, that’s how much I despised one of the character. But he was written to be despised and Liz Nugent’s writing is so deft, so spot on that you can easily imagine the devil incarnate she has created.

There is an implicit discussion of nature versus nurture, that perhaps people’s actions are not always a conscious decision but come from behaviours learnt but that two people with similar starts in life may not always take the same path. The writing is often hard-hitting. There’s a glimpse into the dark side of human nature, a glimpse that is intimate in an undefined way. The reader feels that they are being let into a dark secret, one too awful to share.

There is a fine line between discussing the storyline enough to allow people to make their own decision on whether to read and spoiling the tale. I also try to avoid trigger warnings as these are personal to each reader. I will however advise that paedophilia, domestic violence and sexual assault are all discussed.

Sally emerges as a character to care about. I spent the whole story wishing that she could find, not a happy ending as such, but contentment. It was the least she deserved after all she had been through. I wanted her to discover her place in the world. Again, it shows the strength of writing it takes to engage a reader so much with someone they know isn’t really real.

A book that will elicit a gamut of emotions from an author who knows the power of the written word.


You can buy a copy of the book here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy Strange Sally Diamond from your local independent bookshop.)

One Comment Add yours

  1. I’m going to the launch next week in Belfast Janet and can’t wait. She never disappoints!


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