4 out of 5 stars
- Author: Victoria Namkung
- Publication date: November 7, 2017
- By Griffith Moon
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.
At first, I was not sure how to judge this book as a reader. It is well written, packs a powerful message and it held my attention, even though it has a distinct non-fiction feel. So, four stars it is! Plus, that gorgeous cover.
Chosen for its beautiful cover and title, I mistakenly assumed the book was a light mystery or domestic type thriller. It’s not. Note to self: start reading summaries carefully. I am really glad I continued reading, it was compelling and informative.
Here comes the dreaded “however”… reading this book feels exactly like watching a one hour episode of Law and Order. Da dum.
With spot-on relevancy to current events (#MeToo), I was expecting a great deal from this book. The story of different women that come forward, years later, to accuse a former high school teacher of horrible things was sadly dry, simply because of the way it was presented. We hear their stories in long rambling paragraphs of newspaper articles, letters, court testimony or social media posts.
I found it difficult to really connect to the protagonists in this story, much as I admired them for their courage. I was interested and cared about the characters. I just wanted to know them on a different level than as a victim.
The book is categorized in General or Women’s fiction. This is a difficult subject to serve as a thesis in a work of fiction. I think the author did a fantastic job of researching the facts and giving all the statistics involved in sexual abuse. It is insightful, valuable and educational for parents and older teens to read. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what we can do to prevent more women from having to remain silent.
Sadly, the problem lies in the fact that this is so relevant and the stories are so real that this short book reads more like non-fiction. And I want more story.
For nearly 20 years, Victoria Namkung has been a Los Angeles-based author, journalist, essayist, and cultural commentator. Her writing has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, NBC News, VICE, Washington Post, USA Today, InStyle, and Los Angeles magazine, among other publications. As a speaker and panelist, she’s appeared at the AAAS Conference, Mixed Remixed, and the Asian American Journalists Association.
After receiving a master’s from UCLA, she taught courses on gender, immigration, and writing at UCSB, UCLA, and 826LA, respectively. Her research on Asian American males and import car culture in southern California was published as a chapter in the award-winning collection, Asian American Youth (Routledge), and was taught at esteemed universities such as Cornell University and Oberlin College.
The daughter of a Dublin-born Jewish mother and Korean father, Victoria was raised in Irvine, California and maintains dual citizenship in Ireland. Her debut novel, The Things We Tell Ourselves (Standard Time Press), was published in 2015. Victoria’s second novel, These Violent Delights (Griffith Moon), will be published in November 2017.
Many thanks to the wonderful folks at NetGalley for allowing me to read and honestly review this book.