sexual abuse

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All Day At The Movies – Fiona Kidman

Published March 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When war widow Irene Sandle goes to work in New Zealand’s tobacco fields in 1952, she hopes to start a new, independent life for herself and her daughter – but the tragic repercussions of her decision will resonate long after Irene has gone.

Each of Irene’s children carries the events of their childhood throughout their lives, played out against a backdrop of great change – new opportunities emerge for women, but social problems continue to hold many back. Headstrong Belinda becomes a successful filmmaker, but struggles to deal with her own family drama as her younger siblings are haunted by the past.

A sweeping saga covering half a century, this is a powerful exploration of family ties and heartbreaks, and of learning to live with the past

What did I think?:

8th March is International Woman’s Day, commemorating the movement for women’s rights, equality between the genders and celebrating all the achievements of women around the world. To celebrate this day, I’d like to showcase a very much new to me author (although incredibly prolific in her native New Zealand), Dame Fiona Kidman with her wonderful novel, All Day At The Movies which was brought to my attention by Gallic Press. A huge thank you to them for opening my eyes to a talented writer I have only now had the good fortune to come across and for the copy they kindly sent me in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed every sweeping moment of this narrative, packed full of drama, heart-ache, testing times and indeed, triumphs of one particular family. I loved how the author put so much heart into each character that she created and this only served to make me feel more connected and invested in each of them individually as a reader.

All Day At The Movies is an epic family tale spanning about sixty years focusing on a few members of a family down the generations. At first, we meet a determined mother, Irene Sandle who tragically, has become widowed with a young daughter, Jessie to support. She is forced to work in the tobacco fields of New Zealand in the early fifties which does not pay much and is back-breaking work but provides a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. However, in trying to provide a stable life for herself and her daughter, Irene becomes embroiled in a life that she hadn’t planned and unfortunately, will have severe repercussions for the rest of her children down the line as their story continues once Irene is gone.

I cannot say anymore than this – to do so would be to give far too much away! Let me just say, we follow a few of Irene’s children and how they deal with the struggles in their lives once their mother has gone and they are forced to navigate the world without her, without much support or strength from the other responsible adults in their lives. We hear very little about Jessie as she runs away entirely from the situation but it is obvious that the damage has already been done. We see a more prominent effect on the children left behind i.e. Belinda, Grant and the youngest girl, Janice who you could suggest goes through the most traumatic experiences. However, all children are affected in some way or another and even though Belinda does manage to make some success of her life after a rocky start, there are still demons that return to plague her, especially those connected with her siblings.

I absolutely adored the structure of this novel. It’s almost like a series of short stories, beginning in 1952 with Irene’s story, meandering right through the seventies and eighties and ending in 2015, where we begin to realise the full extent of how each of Irene’s children have been affected by their past experiences. It’s rare to find a perfect family of course, and relationships between certain members of our families can be tricky at times but Fiona Kidman illustrates these difficulties beautifully with a very sensitive analysis of the bonds that hold us together as a family and how tenuous these links can be, especially where there are issues of trust or neglect. I certainly wasn’t expecting some of the themes that the author covered, including emotional and sexual abuse, death, racism, poverty, adoption, mental illness…. I could go on, I’ve just scratched the surface with the amount of issues addressed here!

Finally, I just want to touch on the fact that the author also uses events in New Zealand’s history (which I know shamefully little about) to make an already action-packed narrative even more exciting. I was completely swept away, surprised and delighted by this fantastic novel which was a real joy to experience and I was quite sad to come to the realisation that we were in 2015 and there were no more generations of Irene’s family to follow just yet! I could have read about them for much longer and there’s certainly a few of the characters stories that will stick in my mind for a long while yet.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

All Day At The Movies by Fiona Kidman was the seventeenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

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Anatomy Of A Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Published February 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?

What did I think?:

I’ve lost count of the amount of amazing reviews I’ve seen about Anatomy Of A Scandal from my wonderful fellow bloggers. And guess what? They were all right! This is a fantastic novel that melds contemporary fiction with mystery and a legal thriller in a perfect way. This combined with some hard-hitting issues and intriguing characters produces a novel that is not only incredibly relevant and timely but difficult to tear yourself away from and I must have gobbled it up in less than two days as I found once I started, I definitely didn’t want to stop. This book rightly deserves all the acclaim it is getting and I feel my job now in this review is to get as many of you to read it (who haven’t already done so) as possible so you can all discover the powerhouse that is Sarah Vaughan.

Told from a number of different perspectives this is the story of a wife, Sophie and her husband, James, a politician and close friend of the Prime Minister. They met at Oxford University where they formed a fleeting relationship then re-connect later on in life, marry and have two children. Their relationship has been tested at times but Sophie now fully believes that they have a strong, loving partnership that absolutely nothing can shake. She is wrong. When he is accused of a terrible crime and protests his innocence, their whole world is rocked irrevocably. Of course, Sophie trusts her husband implicitly and stands by him through a horrendous trial situation but as more details of the incident come to light from the woman accusing him, she begins to question everything. We also hear from the brilliant Kate, who is prosecuting James’ case and determined to get a guilty verdict for him, whatever the cost.

This novel jumps across time-lines from the present situation that all parties find themselves in to their past experiences in the world of Oxford University where the rich and privileged seem to get away with anything as long as they have enough money, prestige and connections to make the situation go away. I loved how this was a eye-opening reflection on scandals we have heard about, particularly politically (and across the globe, not necessarily in Britain) in recent years where if you have power, the world is your oyster no matter how badly you might behave.

I was shocked to realise that the exclusive club at Oxford that Sarah Vaughan writes about, where the young men go around, getting horrifically drunk, wrecking restaurants and then settling the bill for the damage at the end of the night IS an actual thing and indeed, some of our illustrious leaders in the country at the moment were part of this club. There’s also the very timely issues of sexual abuse/rape and how this is treated in the courtroom and by a jury i.e. “was she asking for it?” and the real fact that convictions for this crime are so staggeringly awful. There is no doubt that change needs to happen.

This is such a brilliant novel, for all of these above reasons and also because you really feel each character is so beautifully written, you could almost know them inside out. They could be a family member, your best friend, your colleague from work etc. However, even though I felt like I connected intimately with some of these characters, and knew what they might do, particularly Kate and Sophie at points, Sarah Vaughan is not shy of throwing a few spanners in the works and there are some fantastic twists to the tale that you just won’t see coming. I’d love to chat more about this novel in the comments so if you’ve read and loved this please tell me what you loved the most and if you haven’t read it yet, tell me when you’re going to start reading it! You just have to. It’s that good.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Milk And Honey – Rupi Kaur

Published December 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

What did I think?:

I’m finding this such a tough review to write on so many levels so I do apologise if my thoughts are even less coherent than usual but this book had such an enormous impact on me that to be honest, I’m not quite sure where to start. I’m not particularly well versed in poetry to be fair – I studied some in my English Literature A Level but it was mainly classical poetry rather than anything contemporary. With poetry I think it’s such a personal thing sometimes, what works for one person might not work at all for another but if you do find that style that fits your particular niche, it’s so worthwhile all the searching that you might have done and that’s what I found with Milk And Honey.

I had heard so many great reviews about this collection from other blogs, bookstagram and book tube and although I knew it was going to be quite hard-hitting, I was determined to discover it for myself and form my own opinions. Well, it hit me with a sledge hammer with all its rawness and pure honesty and I found the simplicity of the prose not only beautiful to read but very effective, especially in eliciting such a range of different feelings (bad and good) that I felt quite emotionally drained at the end of it. I posted a couple of the poems that spoke to me personally on my bookstagram as I was reading it and developing those strong feelings, and without going into too much detail (because…DIFFICULT!), I’d just like to share a couple of those now:

it is your blood

in my veins

tell me how i’m

supposed to forget

and:

a daughter should

not have to

beg her father

for a relationship

There are so many more I could show you but these are the two that had the most powerful affect on me. So simple and succinct yet they gave me the most dramatic sentiments that at times, I felt I had to take this book quite slowly for fear of breaking down completely. The collection is divided into four sections namely The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking and The Healing and each short poem slots perfectly into these categories and is so amazingly poignant. They aren’t necessarily always sad, there’s a great amount of positivity, optimism for the future and a strong, feminist message in the poems (which I always appreciate) but it just so happened that the ones that had the biggest impact on me happened to be a little bleaker than others.

This collection isn’t going to be for everyone. I understand the author has received a lot of stick over whether these are genuinely good poems or just great Instagram/Tumblr posts. As I mentioned before, poetry is such an individual thing and if you find an author that speaks to you, like I’m sure she speaks to many others, hang on to that and enjoy it. There’s always going to be people who don’t connect with certain things like others do and that’s absolutely fine, wouldn’t the world be so boring if we all liked the same thing? This is certainly a book for my favourites shelf that I’ll be dipping in and out of again and I’m really looking forward to reading her second collection, The Sun And Her Flowers which I bought recently.

Please note: Be aware, there are trigger warnings in this book for rape and sexual abuse if you are particularly sensitive to these topics.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

Published April 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

What did I think?:

I first came across the amazing Louise O’Neill with her debut novel, Only Ever Yours which won a host of acclaim and the YA book prize back in 2015. Just looking at the title, Asking For It, I knew this was going to be a raw, emotional read but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the feelings it would give me while I was reading it. The author approaches difficult topics, things we don’t necessarily talk about much (but SHOULD) with ease and panache and I finished this novel angry with the world but strangely quite empowered and wanting to do something to change it.

If you haven’t heard already, Asking For It is the story of eighteen year old Emma O’Donovan. Her life is pretty much perfect, she has a host of adoring friends, she is popular, beautiful and clever to boot and is the apple of her parents eye. A lot is expected of Emma, especially by her mother and it is interesting to note how the support network around her fails spectacularly after one night when her whole world falls apart. Emma is under the influence of alcohol and drugs when the event occurs and was so wasted that she has no recollection of it at all. Turning up a bit bruised and worse for wear on her doorstep might have just been another night partying a bit too hard? Until school the next day when her friends ignore her, mock her or just plain won’t meet her eye. For there are explicit photographs of Emma and what happened to her plastered all over social media and she has become the laughing stock of the school. Emma has had a bit of a reputation prior to the incident but she was obviously too drunk/high to give her consent… was she asking for it?

While reading this novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the issue of consent and responsibility that the author has explored in such a visceral, honest way. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the amount of rape cases that actually end in a conviction i.e. very few and as a result, many women feel scared to come forward as they fear they won’t be believed. It is only widely known that the prosecution only need to get a whiff of “she had been drinking,” before the issue of consent becomes a very blurry one. This just makes me so angry. What right does anyone have to use alcohol as an excuse to not convict someone who has brutally invaded a private, personal space? In Asking For It, Louise O’Neill makes our emotions and attitudes whirl considerably more as Emma O’Donovan is not a likeable character in the slightest. She is rude, bitchy and a nasty piece of work and initially, she was so rotten I felt I couldn’t possibly feel sorry for her. Until the party. Until she becomes a wreck, a broken shell of herself, possibly ruined for life and intensely pitiable. Of course, no matter someone’s personality/past actions, absolutely no one deserves to be violated like that.

We have to start talking about this issue, we simply must try and lift the shame behind having this happen and treat victims the way they should be treated, as a human being with basic rights to their own body that no-one should take away unless they explicitly consent to it. This is why this book is so great – it makes you think, it makes you emotional, it makes you desperate to see change and it makes you worry about every single woman that this has happened to. Certainly nobody is EVER “Asking For It.” A huge thank you to Louise for writing such a strong, passionate story that really opened my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books 2017 – APRIL READ – Habibi by Craig Thompson

Published April 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

bannedbooks

What’s it all about?:

From the internationally acclaimed author of Blankets (“A triumph for the genre.”Library Journal), a highly anticipated new graphic novel.
 
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fourth banned book of 2017! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. If you would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

MAY – Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan – Jeanette Winter

JUNE – Saga, Volume Two (Chapters 7-12) – Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

JULY – The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

AUGUST – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

Habibi by Craig Thompson

First published: 2011

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)

Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  As a fairly recent release (2011), there aren’t going to be many differences in my opinions as I don’t really believe attitudes have changed that much in the past six years or so. I’m finding expressing my opinions about this graphic novel quite difficult and apologies if my words aren’t coherent! I have such mixed views on this book, you see. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Can I see why it was challenged/banned? Well, er….yes I kind of can. This is NOT to say that I agree with banning books, not in the slightest! I can however see why this book may have been controversial. There are a LOT of adult themes in the books that may not be suitable for younger readers mainly involving rape and graphic sexuality. Of course the book should be available to read but perhaps not in settings where much younger children have access to it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t agree with banning books as I don’t think people should be ‘told’ what they can and cannot read. However, this book is one of those books that it’s easy to see why it’s challenged. It’s certainly controversial and it deals with many contentious issues. There’s some quite graphic sexuality, nudity and rape which isn’t suitable for younger readers in my opinion. I’m not sure if this book is intended to be for adults, but that’s certainly what it came across to me. A work of adult literature!

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So the reasons for banning/challenging this graphic novel are nudity which there is an abundance of. Seriously, every other page seems to have a naked character on it (probably 95% of them are female, I have to say which I’m not going to even get into but which made me slightly uncomfortable for my own feminist sensibilities). Then there’s the fact it’s sexually explicit and that is certainly the case. Naked bodies are not a bad thing don’t get me wrong but some of the sexual scenes which mainly involve sex that is non-consensual are incredibly graphic. Finally, it states that it’s unsuited for the age group. Here’s where I have a bit of confusion. I don’t know what age group it’s actually meant to be aimed at? Yes, it’s a graphic novel which may make you automatically think of younger readers, however the themes are so adult that it cannot be anything but an adult read. 

CHRISSI: I can see why it’s challenged. I read a wide range of literature, but this one made me feel particularly uncomfortable and that’s quite something!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s a beast at about 700 pages long but don’t be intimidated by it’s size, I read it quite easily in two sittings in the space of a couple of hours. The illustrations are fantastic and some parts of the story I really enjoyed but other parts….I could just see why it may be offensive, especially to some cultures and religions. I didn’t really enjoy the stories within stories that talked about the similarities between Christianity and Islam as religions either which is strange as I normally like that sort of thing. In this novel however, it just made the narrative feel quite bumpy – if that’s the right word!

CHRISSI: Despite my uncomfortable feeling whilst reading this book, it didn’t take me long to read at all. I found it interesting in parts and offensive in others. It was a mixed bag for me, like Beth, but I’m leaning more towards not enjoying the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: I’m going to say maybe as I think some people will love it, other people will not so much. It’s a Marmite kind of book!
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- Others might enjoy it,  but it was too much for me.

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of May when we will be talking about Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter.

Banned Books 2016 – APRIL READ – A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Published April 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

bannedbooks11330361What’s it all about?:

In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

bannedbooks

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our fourth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

MAY – Drama- Raina Telgemeier

JUNE -Captain Underpants- Dav Pilkey

JULY – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl- Tanya Lee Stone

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

First published: 2011

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Not really, no. Because this book is a memoir of something terrible that actually happened to an eleven year old child I think it’s a really important read that more people should be aware of. I was slightly surprised (and quite horrified) at how explicit the book was in points and that’s the only reason why I would hesitate for it to be used in a classroom environment with younger children. For older teenagers – definitely yes, it should be available and recommended by a librarian or a teacher.

CHRISSI:  Yes and no. In a classroom environment with young teenagers- yes. I understand. I know it’s something that shouldn’t be shied away from, it really happened and it does happen, but I worry that it’s too sensitive an issue to discuss in a classroom. However, if a teacher did want to take it on then I would have the utmost respect for them as I think it’s a book that should be explored. I definitely think it should be recommended to older teenagers. It’s important that it’s read and discussed as it contains so many sensitive subjects that need to be identified in a safe environment.

How about now?

BETH: This is a fairly recent release (2011) so I don’t believe things have changed much in the past five years. One of the reasons given for challenging the book i.e. that it contains drugs/alcohol/smoking I feel is quite ridiculous as I don’t think teenagers should be sheltered from things that clearly happen in the outside world and may give them vital information that they can learn from to help them make informed choices about such things.

CHRISSI: I think the only reason why I have doubts about this book is because it is such a harrowing read and could potentially trigger individuals that have experienced similar things. For being banned for drugs/alcohol and smoking- I totally disagree. Teenagers and young adults experience these things in every day life. Why hide from it?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’d hesitate to say I “enjoyed” it as at points it was quite a harrowing read – especially when Jaycee was first kidnapped. The length of time she was held, the childhood she lost and the sexual abuse that she had to suffer was truly terrifying. It was interesting to read her journal entries and try to figure out the mind-set of her kidnapper who was obviously mentally disturbed in quite a few ways. It’s a hugely important read that I think teenagers should be exposed to and I commend the bravery of the author in speaking out about her traumatic experience.

CHRISSI: I can’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ it, like Beth says. It was hard to read at times. It was incredibly explicit. I hated reading about the way she was treated and how her childhood was stolen. However, it is such an important read!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of May when we will be discussing Drama by Raina Telgemeier.