‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan – Looking Back at Her Affair Seven Years Later

‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan (2021) – 279 pages

‘Acts of Desperation’ is not a novel that you read for pleasure. It is a sad disturbing read. However its mercifully short chapters keep you reading. One hopes, for the author’s sake, this is not autofiction.

Ciaran was the first extremely good looking guy our unnamed first-person female narrator has dated.

“It was a strange experience for me going out with someone so objectively attractive. In public, I was split between taking childish pleasure in it and feeling terrified that people looked at us and were puzzled by the discrepancy.”

However Ciaran, handsome as he is, is a cold fish. All of her friends secretly or not-so-secretly hated him and thought he was bad for her. That should have been the tip-off for her not to get involved with him. However she likes the idea of this attractive guy as her boyfriend. Also Ciaran is still hung up on his old long-time girlfriend, Freja.

With “his natural coldness”, the best that Ciaran can do with her friends and relatives was to be “passably convivial”. Other times he is worse.

“I had chosen someone who was by nature indifferent and made it my project to make him love me.”

It is not like her life was perfect before she met Ciaran. She was into cutting herself and starving herself to lose weight already since she was an adolescent. When she started going to bars, she would get real drunk and pick up men for sex.

This is confessional self-obsessed fiction on the order of our Scandinavian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. If you like his work, you will probably like ‘Acts of Desperation’. I must admit that I am not a fan of Knausgaard’s work, after having to struggle through ‘My Struggle’.

Interspersed among all the short chapters about her oppressive two-year affair with Ciaran are short chapters she has written from her new home in Athens, Greece seven years later. She is looking back at this terrible time trying to gain some perspective from a distance.

At the novel’s end our female narrator seven years later wonders, “What would I think about, now that I wasn’t thinking about love or sex?”

Grade:    B

7 responses to this post.

  1. I am so tired of this kind of moaning navel-gazing. If it’s auto-fiction, I feel sorry for the author but not enough to want to read about it.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      I don’t know what you think of Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgard, but I consider him the Navel-Gazer-in-Chief. 🙂



      • I can’t abide him. I was on Stu (Winston’s Dad)’s Shadow Jury for the old IFFP when the first one was nominated, so I felt duty bound to read the whole thing, and I loathed it. And what’s more, any time I see someone refer to him as Proustian, I cross them off my Christmas Card list.
        I am so hoping publishing will emerge from this misery-making phase soon.

        Liked by 1 person


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