Dark Chapter - Winnie M. Li

This story is all the more astounding when you consider that it is based on the real life events that occurred to the author. I have never been more affected or more enthralled by the content of a novel or by its alternate voice method of presentation. Vivian Tan, independent and vivacious traveller, is in Belfast invited to contribute in the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. As a keen walker she plans to use the opportunity to explore the nearby Colin Glen Forest Park close to the city. She meets a young, seemingly innocent boy John Sweeney who continues to follow the hiker seeking a reaction from her as he attempts to strike up a friendly conversation. The situation develops in a frightening and unexpected manner when a pleasant exchange turns to a violent assault and uncontrollable lust ending in the rape of Mz Tan.

 

It is the telling of this story through the voices of the victim and the perpetrator that makes for compelling reading. A victim so traumatized by a violent act that her life from here on is changed irrevocably and a perpetrator totally unconcerned by the affect of his actions on the victim..."But they have no idea how far she is now from the person they knew a week ago. They just see her, hear her voice. But the real Vivian checked out days ago, and she doesn't know when she'll return.".... As we alternate quickly between the thoughts of Vivian and Sweeney we encounter the rape, the aftermath, the trial and the fallout. It is often so easy to read about a sexual assault and to dismiss very quickly, but the voice of Winnie Li, and her articulate literary presentation taking us from a solitary walk to her life today, (as the lines between Winnie and Vivian must surely be merged) is a meaningful, sombre and sad experience to me as a male reader.

 

An essential important read by a lady who I can only hold the greatest respect and admiration for. The scenes in the Northern Irish courtroom and the questioning that Vivian received at the hands of a well educated defence lawyer had me totally engrossed by its realism and authenticity ( I work within the legal system) This is a novel that should be read by everyone and can only add to the understanding of a victim in a violent sexual attack, a victim with the courage to tell her story knowing that...."One of these day, she tells herself, she'll be able to walk into a field on her own. An open field under the broad sky in the middle of the day. She'll be able to lie down on her back, feel the grass beneath her, the sun on her face, close her eyes and she will feel completely content. And she will feel no danger....." Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.