Book Review: Manipulated Lives by H. A. Leuschel

ManipulatedLivesAbout the Book

Five stories. Five lives.

Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.

In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

Format: ebook (273 pp.)     Publisher:
Published: 8th June 2016    Genre: Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction

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My Review

In this collection of compelling short stories, the author puts the reader inside the minds of five people who have either suffered psychological manipulation at the hands of another or been responsible for it.  The book persuasively illustrates that anyone – young or old, male or female – can fall prey to manipulation.  For instance, in the story ‘Tess and Tattoos’, we meet Tess, a charming, kind old lady, who was unlucky enough to form a relationship with someone who abused her physically and psychologically.  Incidentally, I was so glad that Tess found a friend to provide comfort to her as she unburdens herself of her traumatic memories.

In all the stories, the reader is witness to the internal dialogue of the characters as they reflect on their experiences and try to make sense of how they were manipulated or, in one case, to justify (unsuccessfully to my mind) their actions.  At times, I felt this self-analysis seemed a little too like reading a psychology textbook.  I also found myself feeling rather worn down by the bleak nature of their experiences.  By the time I got to the story of ‘The Narcissist’, which I’ll confess I found quite disturbing, I felt myself in sympathy with the thoughts of his psychiatrist: ‘It is tiring, exhausting, and in cases like this, downright gruelling to observe the human mind at its worst.’

The author clearly has a gift for creating memorable characters, believable situations and stories that often have a surprising sting in the tail.  Readers with an interest in psychology or who like to inhabit the minds of characters (and don’t mind if some of these are unlikeable) will find Manipulated Lives a fascinating and compelling read.   I also think the book might be helpful for anyone trying to understand the experiences of someone who has been subject to coercive control or manipulation.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Dark, intense, thought-provoking

H A LeuschelAbout the Author

Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches yoga.

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