Trigger Warnings: descriptions of sexual assault by an authority figure, suicide, accusers’ internal monologues, eating disorder, alcoholism, drug use, rape culture comments/victim blaming
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.
This book was not an easy read. Very topical in the current climate, it really makes a lot of the issues women are facing right now hit home and become more personal. It follows the perspective of multiple women involved in a situation where a teacher is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with students over a number of years. It follows a journalist who supervises the woman who makes the first accusation, as well as multiple accusers of the teacher who come forward once the initial accusation is published. Through these perspectives, the reader gets to see what it feels like to be an accuser in the public eye, and, friends, it’s not pretty. This book was honest and real, and made me think a lot about my own perceptions of things I see in the news. It tackled everything from how vigilant accusers have to be with their social media accounts to discussions about the nature of victim blaming and potential false accusations.
The book’s characters are all well-developed, and It’s good to have Jane’s perspective on the outside, as well as the accusers’ perspectives. It shows how different people deal with trauma, and how trauma affects us over the rest of our lives, especially when it’s compounded trauma. It also shows the ability of women to support each other in the worst of times, and shows how common experiences link us together. With the way things are today, the relationships the women form were truly bright spots in this read.
If you can handle it, this book is a read that’s well worth it. It’s not easy to get through, and at times, it makes you just want to yell at the world. What I liked about it is that it’s fiction that makes you re-examine your own ideas, and helps you work through some of the ugliness in our world. I read it all in one sitting, which was hard, but it was also hard to put down.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley & the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
What other tough, but good reads would you recommend?? Let me know in the comments!