*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and to Emma Welton of damppebbles blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Five compelling true-to-life stories each highlighting a narcissist’s manipulative mind games
Narcissists are everywhere.
They can be witty, charming and highly charismatic.
Anyone can be their target.
At first their devious, calculating mind games can be hard to spot because they are masters of disguise, 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.
All stories highlight to what extent narcissistic abuse can distort lives and threaten our self-worth yet ultimately, also send a positive message that once the narcissist is unmasked, the victims can at last break free.
Manipulated Lives is a collection of five novellas, all around the theme of narcissistic abuse.
H.A. Leuschel takes this disturbing, yet fascinating, personality disorder and examines it from different fictional standpoints, to give the reader a variety of different perspectives – including the victims and even the abusers.
In ‘Tess and Tattoos’ we see an elderly woman dealing with the emotional aftermath of her abuse, with the focus more on the long-term effects on a victim, and on those around them, with the actual abuse very much in the backstory. The next two stories, in total contrast, ‘The Spell’ and ‘Runaway Girl’ show us how the emotional control is established and how the victims are hooked and then forced to be complicit in their own abuse – emotional, financial and/or physical. Finally, in ‘The Narcissist’ and ‘My Perfect Child’ we get to hear from the perpetrators of such manipulation and abuse, along with the effects on their child and parent respectively.
I particularly enjoyed reading ‘The Narcissist’, although in many ways it was the most disturbing of the stories, as I felt that Leuschel really captured the strange – to an outsider – combination of self-delusion, grandiosity, insecurity and rage that characterise a narcissistic abuser. Seeing the web of justifications and excuses that the main character cocooned himself in, so that he could live with his abusive actions, was chilling but gave me so much insight into behaviour that seems otherwise unfathomable.
What all of the stories have in common, other than the central theme, is the focus on the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters, and the realism that pervades each scenario… these could be ‘true story’ recounts rather than short stories, if it weren’t for the shifts in viewpoint. There is also a similarity in that the victims we see here are all women, and four out of the five manipulators are male. I’m not sure whether this is a result of the author’s research into the subject, or just the way the stories came to her, but I do feel it would have added more balance to have varied the genders as well as the ages of the characters.
As someone who is always drawn to psychological fiction, I found these stories both entertaining and intriguing, and with the short format they were perfect for dipping in and out of for a quick, thought-provoking fix. I’d recommend this collection to anyone with a narcissist in the life or in their past, or anyone who – like me – enjoys reading about the darker side of the human psyche.
After all, I absolutely love magicians and their illusory tricks. They can teach one so much about camouflage and fantasy. If you believe hard enough in your dreams and work on the props and devices that will shed the light on where you want them to look, you will dazzle and amaze any novice. Those whom are smart enough to work out a magician’s tricks will just have to be avoided or, ideally, excluded from the start. No matter what situation you are in, it all depends on how you present your story to the listener, or on which details you reveal and which ones you leave out, then you have them eating from the palm of your hand. The trick is to appear that you are going with the flow while staying focused on what you want. The pleasure you then get from achieving your goals is exhilarating. Trust me, I’ve been there. The main thing you have to do is ignore the whimpering of others. When they cry or shout at you, make sure you shout louder and reap the fruits wen you see them swimming in self-pity. As I said earlier, you have to focus at all times on what you want and tell yourself that it is not your fault if others are too weak to follow it through themselves.– H.A. Leuschel, ‘The Narcissist’ in Manipulated Lives
Manipulated Lives is available on Amazon right now!
Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour for more great reviews and content (see the poster below for details)!