This is a difficult book to review. It is particularly lengthy and it is told from the viewpoint of the sociopath in the title. By nature, sociopaths are a turn off. This one, Thomas Spencer, is no exception.
Thomas grows up in an upper middle class household. His father is an attorney in a second generation New York law firm. His mother is a nurse who is half Mexican and half American. His younger brother is a lovely person with a personality that all love and a golden future. Thomas is a difficult person from childhood all the way to death.
As the story opens, Thomas and his brother Jaime are both children. Thomas is adored by his father, despised by the nanny/maid and distant with his mother. He is cruel to his younger brother as well as animals. He is unpleasant in every way but he is the heart of the story and there is little or no reprieve from Thomas.
What is great about this story is that sociopaths are most often shown to be criminals. In this story, the sociopathic tendencies of Thomas, translate into a certain amount of success in his chosen profession – advertising. His methods though, leave a lot of collateral damage in his wake.
As Thomas narrates the story, there are a number of places where he explains how an event played out. But he also gives an alternative narrative, in italics, about what he could have done instead. Thomas never chooses the correct or pleasing or socially appropriate response however.
As the book proceeds from childhood, to young adulthood, to adulthood, to old age, Thomas becomes increasingly less pleasant and more sadistic. Sadly, he is also the most successful character in the book and as life often imitates art, many of us can see how it works the same in the big wide world.
Thomas destroys lives, including many of those closest to him. He is unable to love although it is something that he desperately seeks and is unable to receive much less understand.
The story takes place in both New York and London with a segue to Madrid that felt incomplete. Strangely, it is the one time in the story that one feels Thomas has found what amounts to him, happiness and peace. It is also the one place in the world where as much as he is able, he abstains from damage.
It is one of those books I can’t stop thinking about so therefore, it must have resonated more than I thought. It is long – almost 900 pages, so it is one with length and depth and requires a commitment of time. If psychological manipulation and gaslighting interest you, and you want to better understand the mind of a sociopath, then this one is for you.