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So though I said I wasn’t going to get involved in any more challenges, I couldn’t resist this one as it is such a simple idea. I’ve been thinking quite carefully about what to set myself as goals, and I’ve come up with the following:

  • to read the following books left over from RIP III challenge:
    • Duma Key by Stephen King
    • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    • Come Closer by Sara Gran
    • Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman
  • to finish Jigs and Reels by Joanne Harris which I started reading way back when?
  • to finish The Mandlebaum Gate which I abandoned earlier this year, and kick-start my Muriel Spark readathon once again
  • to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman as soon as I get my sticky paws on it
  • to find enough books in addition to these, and make the time to read them, so that I hit my 52 books in 52 weeks goal

That looks like enough to get on with, I think!

Where to start with this one? A controversial title (I received some askance looks when reading this on my daily commute) perhaps, but as with all works by Joyce Carol Oates carefully chosen, not for shock value but to reflect what the nub of the story really is.

Rape is about Teena Maguire, a single mother, and her daughter Bethie, 12 years old, and the consequences of their short-cut through a local park late at night after a Fourth of July party. Teena is raped by a number of men who are high on drugs and alcohol, beaten and left for dead; Bethie is beaten but escapes, though she can hear from her hiding place what is happening to her mother.

The men’s families hire a lawyer who is able to get their charges reduced to assault by claiming that there was consent and the beating and so on must have been carried out by a different group of men who came along later; after all, no-one actually witnessed the rape. Some of the most difficult parts of the story are here, where the justice system seems to fail Teena and Bethie; the author has made it clear from the start that these men are guilty, there is no room for ambiguity or doubt, but Teena’s poor choice that night, her dress and her family circumstances are used against her. But there is one man who is determined to see justice done, and the latter part of the novella concentrates on how he achieves that; whether his actions are right or wrong is left to the reader to decide.

This is an incredibly powerful story, but not to everyone’s taste; I’m sure many will find it a difficult read. I have said elsewhere that I admire Joyce Carol Oates greatly, and a number of her novels deal with the undercurrent of violence in modern society and how it often erupts into the lives of otherwise ordinary families, and this is no exception. The events stay with Bethie into her adult life.

This is my fifth read for the Novella Challenge.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday


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September 2008