(Trigger warning: rape)
A couple of months ago, I bought Passion Play by Beth Bernobich. I just started reading it a couple days ago. People were raving about this book because apparently it reminds them of Kushiel’s Legacy which, if you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you will know that I love to pieces. The first couple of chapters were interesting. The dialogue seemed a little forced at first (the main character and her friend have a very formal, stiff way of speaking) but there’s an interesting religious component that has to do with past lives (people dream of their past lives, which feel different than regular dreams) and worship deities who are basically Wiccan deities without the nature-honouring part (so far).
That said, here’s a play-by play of my reaction to chapter three until the end of chapter five:
Me: What’s that, Therez, you need a caravan out of the city? Well–I’m sure there’s one around that can take you to the capital–wait, why are you asking that guy? The text does make a point of saying he’s dirty and smelly and ugly as sin, I know you’re not supposed to judge by appearances, but….waitaminute, did that guy just try and grope you? Oh, okay, you just shrugged it off, probably an isolated incident.
[Some time later, Therez discovers her money is stolen, ends up being called a thief, and is tied to one of the caravan’s wagons as punishment.}
Me: Wow, this isn’t good, Therez, looks like you’re in trouble–oh, look, here come those two brothers from earlier. They’ve been nice to you (except that time when the one groped you). Oh good, they’ll help you esca–they want WHAT in payment? Oh shit. At least now you can esca–WTF AM I READING?!
In case you really want to know the details, that last part has Therez becoming a *coughs* “camp woman”. This basically means that she is….used….a lot. I had to actually put the book down, and it’s not like I’ve never encountered rape scenes in fiction.
The thing that I find most disturbing (besides the rapes themselves, and they’re not even that graphic) is how Therez reacts to the situation. In the beginning, she cries herself to sleep, but by the end, she’s….in a cabin, roasting meat and making raspberry leaf tea, like nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to her.
Now, from what I’ve read about survivors of rape, everyone has different reactions to the event, so maybe Therez’s reaction is normal. I have no clue (and, in all honesty, I hope I never get a clue). So far, the text just seems to be treating it like a blip on the radar, like a hurdle the protagonist has jumped over. Call me crazy, but somehow I don’t think you can take six men a night for at least a week and not have any wounds from it.
At first I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading this book, but I think I’ll keep going. As I’ve said, this isn’t the first rape scene I’ve ever read. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marrilier contains a very graphic and RANDOM rape scene in what is otherwise a fairly tame retelling of “The Twelve Wild Swans”, okay, maybe it’s not completely random if you know the original tale and can ponder the implications of it, but HOLY MOOD WHIPLASH, BATMAN!
That’s all I really have to say on the subject.