I had been meaning to read this book for a while seen as I had heard so much about it; but it is thanks to Leena, Hannah and Lucy, co-founders of the Banging Book Club, that I actually got round to it. And I am so glad I did. I think everyone should read this book.
Warning: discussion of rape, spoilers
There is so much stuff packed into these 346 pages that it is hard to know where to start. It was horrific reading, but I felt as if I had to carry on, like I couldn’t leave Emma (the protagonist) in this position alone. You get to be inside of her head from the beginning, and she is just not a very nice person. You’re not meant to like her, and that is such an important factor in the way the reader processes the story and its impact on themselves personally. Emma being unlikable makes you as the reader check yourself and your own reactions.; knowing what’s coming you don’t want to judge her, but can’t help yourself because she’s such an awful person. She is the kind of girl we’ve all come across; arrogant, self-centred, conceited; and probably all hated.
This familiar character is one of the factors which makes the whole story incredibly realistic and believable, which is what I believe makes it so shocking. Another is the reactions of the media, the public and the people in the town; we’ve all read articles, and comments on news stories, and seen the twitter trends that Emma is exposed to in the year after the event. It’s certainly going to make me think twice about how this kind of attention can affect the victim next time there’s a #ISupport campaign etc.
The hopelessness, and helplessness, that you feel as the reader in the second half of the book is possibly harder to read than the pretty graphic sex scene directly previous to it. Everything leading up to the party and the rape itself just seemed so fast-paced compared to the sudden slowness of Emma’s life a year later. The narrative itself is so slow it is almost painful to read, as it reflects the monotony and hopelessness of a life not being lived. The frustration that nothing is happening, no justice is being done, and things haven’t gotten any better, is horrendous. The abrupt ending is a bit like a slap in the face, kind of like an awakening even though I thought I was pretty enlightened on the whole idea of rape culture.
I want to just take a minute to talk about the character of Paul, because I feel like I know him. He could be any one of the ‘lads’ that I went to university with. They wouldn’t think twice about plying a girl with drink and drugs in order to have sex with her, and care nothing about her feelings whatsoever. That’s just ‘lad culture’ at university. (You can read my post on lad culture here for more examples). What makes it even more disgusting to me is the fact that he’s so much older than her, and he is still painted with the same ‘they’re good boys really’ brush, despite him definitely being a man rather than a boy.
Oh there’s so much more to talk about like the fact that it’s set in Ireland that’s pretty backwards in terms of abortion being illegal and Catholicism and judgment etc. and the reactions of her parents being so heartbreaking but I feel like I should stop there cause this is getting pretty long.
Let me know if you’ve read this book what you thought of it! I’ll definitely be putting Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill on my to-read list; I think she’s a fantastic writer.
Until next time, thanks for reading!