Review: Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan

Challenge criteria: A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending


‘I would like to make things beautiful, but a tawdry and repulsive kind of beauty. A braver sort than people have from birth. Sexy zombies on a bicep. That sort of thing.’

Ces longs to be a tattoo artist and embroider skin with beautiful images. But for now she’s just trying to reach adulthood without falling apart.

Powerful, poetic and disturbing, Needlework is a girl’s meditation on her efforts to maintain her bodily and spiritual integrity in the face of abuse, violation and neglect.

Image via Goodreads

What I liked:

I felt like Ces’ name wasn’t mentioned very often in the book, which could have been a way to show her low self esteem and self worth. If so, this was done fantastically.

Needlework is as true to its name as they come. Tattoos are painful, yet beautiful. Just like this book.

There are some difficult scenes in this book – it is a story of the aftermath of abuse – but they are done so subtly. This is a really well written book.

What I didn’t like:

Some scenes regarding Ces and her (thankfully now) absent father were quite uncomfortable, yet powerful, reading.

I didn’t like Ces’ grandmother much when we met her, but I also think she perfectly portrayed just how powerful a mother’s love can be.

Out of five?:

Five. Just like a tattoo, this story is a beautiful creation that will stay with you forever.


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