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Monday, 13 November 2017

Dark Chapter @winniemli @Legend_Press #BlogTour

About Dark Chapter

Vivian is a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist who often escapes her busy life in London through adventure and travel. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teenager, living a neglected life on the margins of society.

On a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide during a horrifying act of violence.

In the aftermath, each is forced to confront the chain of events that led to the attack.

Inspired by true events, this is a story of the dark chapters and chance encounters that can irrevocably determine the shape of our lives.

My review of Dark Chapter

Dark Chapter by Winnie Li is about the brutal rape of a young Taiwanese-American woman who is a tourist in West Belfast. Her attack happens in broad daylight while enjoying a day's hike. Her rapist is Johnny, a 15-year old boy. The book is based upon the author's own experience of rape.

I'll start by saying that I tried several times to write a concise review of this novel, but that each time I found it difficult to find the correct words. I will say that this book is hugely important, it gives a voice to women who have been abused, repressed and attacked in such a brutal and animalistic way. More importantly, it gave a voice to this author, a way to share her story through the narrative of fiction. This is a story of survival, and I hope that it is ok to use that term, as I am acutely aware that words are important when talking about women who have been victims of this type of horrific crime. So for this review I am going to talk mainly about how this book made me feel, and why I think that it is an important book.

From the very beginning we know that this young woman is raped and who the rapist is, so this is not a who done it type of read. That's not the purpose of this book. I found this book to be an exploration into the mind of the rapist, but more importantly, how the attack impacted Vivian, both psychologically and mentally. That's what this book is all about. All too often we hear about rape, but we don't get to fully understand how women are affected in every aspect of their daily lives. This book tackles this head on, from the actual rape, through to, and then after, the court case. Which leads me onto the actual rape scene. It is graphic, and I found very difficult to read, but I knew that this was the intention. To fully understand what happens to Vivian, we need to read about how she was abused sexually, and so the depiction of rape is needed. I'll be honest and say that I read the scene quickly, wishing it to be over, and afterwards I needed to have a break of a few days as the writing really shook me up, it got under my skin. 

I really did feel as if I was walking alongside Vivian, just after the rape and in the weeks and months that followed it. What she describes is authentic, and I knew that this was because the author was writing from her own viewpoint. The scene in which she needs to be photographed is incredibly poignant, as is the scene in the hospital, with what appears to be uncaring or indifferent staff. My heart went out to this woman. A woman who had been abused in the most horrific way, but that life just carried on around her. The only reference point that I could grasp at was that of a close bereavement, but of course, she had been violated in such a degrading way, and even though I felt I understood her feelings, I couldn't fully feel how she was feeling, I only think that this is possible if you have also been raped.

This book is hugely important as it openly discusses rape from the victim's point of view. It gives women who have been raped a voice, a voice which many will not have. This book now seems even more relevant with the recent #MeToo campaign.

Dark Chapter is, as the name suggests, dark. But I also feel that Dark Chapter is about hope and new beginnings. It is one chapter in this woman's life. Winnie Li writes with such brutal honesty, courage and emotion, that she made me weep. I wept for this young woman who was raped, whose life changed so dramatically at the hands of a 15-year-old boy. I'm glad that Winnie found her voice, and that she allowed us into her Dark Chapter. Thank you for writing such an important and powerful book about the strength of women.  

With thanks to the publisher for the copy of Dark Chapter and for inviting me on  the Blog Tour.

Dark Chapter recently wo the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize.

Dark Chapter was published in paperback on 1st November and can be found on Amazon here

About the author

Winnie M. Li is a writer and producer, who has worked in the creative industries on three continents. A Harvard graduate, she has written for travel guide books, produced independent feature films, programmed for film festivals, and developed eco-tourism projects. After graduating with Distinction in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths (where she was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize 2015), she now currently writes across a range of media (including a column for The Huffington Post), runs arts festivals, and is a PhD researcher in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She was Highly Commended for the CWA Debut Dagger 2015 and also shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. She lives in London yet is somewhat addicted to travel. Dark Chapter is her first novel.

Follow Winnie online at or on Twitter @winniemli

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