It has been a while since I have read women’s fiction or anything in the literary fiction genre, but These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung intrigued me. While the title, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was interesting, it was the novel’s exploration of the struggles of women, the pressures of society and how women are treated in the face of adversity that really made me pick this up.
These Violent Delights is a compelling read, packed with information and thorough research on sexual assault victims and trauma. The story is narrated by four women, one being a prominent journalist and the other three are victims of assault by an English high school teacher at Windemere School for Girls. Through these multiple perspectives, the novel offers a greater exploration of sexuality, victimisation and what it means to be a woman in modern day society.
The novel takes a strong stance on the rights of women and young girls, making a point about children needing to feel safe and secure in their school environment. The core of the novel shines through as we dive deeper into the investigation, unearthing the stereotypes and societal expectations of women. The novel reads like a court case; it commences with journalistic approach to set alight the investigation from the initial inklings of denial to the sentencing of the perpetrator. It is also drenched in facts and knowledge about rape culture and the credibility of women.
However, I found some aspects of the novel to be almost too informative in the way it was presented. I felt the novel dragged when the women’s stories are told in long rambling paragraphs, in newspaper articles, letters and social media. I simply didn’t enjoy the long chunks of dialogue and italicised text, especially during group discussions where I felt the dialogue was too formal and structured.
I also found I couldn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to. While they were distinct in characteristics and personality – I liked reading about Caryn and Sasha in particular – I only cared about them in regards to their strength in facing their trauma together. They were a bit too flat for me, but I liked how they interacted and worked together.
Overall, These Violent Delights is a great novel relevant to our time, especially with the circulation of the hashtag #MeToo and the fight for women’s rights against rape culture. It is an insightful and sober tale that deals with the hardships of trauma, sexual abuse and how to come to terms with it. Whether you are a man or a woman, I recommend picking this up.
Disclaimer: I received a e-ARC of this book from Netgallery for an honest review.
At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.