I wrote an essay over at The Richard & Judy Bookclub, about the treatment of violence in The Shining Girls, the personal story that partly inspired the book, why violence in fiction should be upsetting and how we talk about victims.

Here’s the opening. Click through to read in full.



(Trunk Girl ad via The Girl Revolution) 

All The Pretty Corpses

Pop culture has a nasty habit of producing them. You know the type: the girl in the trunk with her long bare legs dangling over the bumper; the torture victim in the basement in a dirty vest and panties; matted hair over her face, the broken ingénue with glazed eyes and her dress fetchingly rucked up and one high heel kicked off and blood pooling under her.

The murder victim becomes a bloody puzzle that has to be solved. She is the sum of her injuries, rather than her life.

We focus on the gory details – the exit wound of the bullet, the angle of the knife, the pattern of the blood spatter, the DNA under her nails, the defensive cuts on her hands. We learn it from TV. This is what is important: what was done to her. Passive voice. Because there’s no subject anymore. Only object: the dead girl, the body. And a body doesn’t mean anything. It’s an empty snail shell. It’s okay to look. There’s no-one in there now. But there was once.

Which is why I wrote The Shining Girls to be a book that is as much about the victims’ stories as the killer’s.

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