These violent delights have violent ends.
I picked up Victoria Namkung’s These Violent Delights for two reasons: 1. the title (mostly because of Westworld, but it did originate from Shakespeare), and 2. ever since reading The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis and Hunger by Roxane Gay, I’ve been wanting to read more literature that explores the topic of sexual assault. Not that it’s something I particularly enjoy reading, but I think it is an important and complicated issue, and want to be more aware of it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
These Violent Delights turned out to be an entertaining and, if not enlightening, relevant read. I don’t think it introduced me to anything particularly new, but it made me think of events like those in the novel in a new way. Like many of the characters in the book, I went to a private, all-girls school, and there while I didn’t directly or indirectly encounter any sexual assault or harassment, there were definitely a few iffy moments with male teachers. But they were definitely brushed off by everyone as “quirks” or “accidents” (i.e. the time a male teacher put his leg up on his desk while wearing shorts and inadvertently exposed himself to a room full of teenage girls).
I enjoyed the way this book was told – through alternating perspectives with a journalistic edge. It felt like a good overview of the events, and really focused on what the characters were thinking and feeling. I’d guess that most of us are familiar stories like those in this book, but I think this book really shines a light on how sexual harassment or assault can be perceived, and why women are so often afraid to come forward. I also came to really love the characters of this book. They were all so different, and I liked how diverse they were. It made the story even more impactful.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and had a hard time putting it down. I finished it very quickly, and am still thinking about it days later. It’s definitely a valuable addition to literary fiction, and a story that I think will help a lot of people.
★★★★☆ – These Violent Delights was just short of five stars for me, but it’s definitely an incredible novel. Unless you are sensitive to sexual assault, I highly recommend this book. It’s extremely relevant to today, and provides an interesting perspective. I look forward to reading more of Victoria Namkung’s writing.
These Violent Delights will be available in stores tomorrow, November 7. (Order your copy on Amazon now.)
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission for purchases made through this post.*