Domestic abuse is a global problem that does not only affects the victim but also society as a whole. It might include sexual, psychological, emotional, financial, and/or physical violence that not only impacts the present generation but echoes throughout generations to come. Irrespective of one’s cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic background, its reach has spread out across centuries and time zones. Yet not many people realise that they are in an abusive relationship until they see their own situation played out in front of them such as in novels. Here are some chosen books that explores domestic abuse in its various form.
Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris
Jack and Grace make the perfect couple, much to the envy of the people who know them. She is charming and classy. He has wealth and is quite a looker. He works as an attorney who prosecutes abusers. This further makes him look like the dream husband everyone wants. Only after they are on their honeymoon in Thailand, Grace realises she has married a sociopath who will be terrorizing her for the rest of her life if she doesn’t get out of this mess soon enough. Now she is not just worried about herself but also about her sister, Millie, who Jack might torture for sadistic pleasure.
When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.
Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
This book is an intense exploration of domestic violence and how victims are left grappling with its consequences years after the abuse is technically over. The novel gets its structure in the form of diary entries and the timelines switch between the past and the present. Lee sweeps Catherine off of her feet and, considering his looks and charisma, that is not a surprise. But under the veneer of his charm lies a darker side that no one is willing to believe. His aggression and desire to control every part of Catherine’s life is truly gut-wrenching. Even years after, when her body has healed, she is still haunted by the monstrosity that was once unleashed upon her and one phone call is all it takes to throw her off track.
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Rum’s debut novel offers us the story of a Palestinian woman married off to a man in America with the hope of a better tomorrow. When Isra married Adam she dreamt of finally receiving the love she had always been deprived of. She didn’t have the slightest clue about the future where she would be subjected to both physical and emotional abuse by Adam. Things take a turn for the worse after she gives birth to three daughters, as Adam’s family had always preferred a boy child over a girl child. Her daughter Deya is now on a quest to figure out who her mother was, the love she carried for her and her sisters, and how she actually died.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that made Alice Walker a household name.
Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
Seas of Snow by Kerensa Jennings
1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mum and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins. As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.
Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
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.
What Was Never Said by Emma Craigie
15-year-old Zahra has lived in England most of her life, but she is haunted by memories of her early childhood in Africa: the warm sun, the loud gunfire, and happy days playing with her older sister before “the visitors” came. It is hard for Zahra to make sense of everything that happened, and the terrible events are impossible to talk about, but when three familiar women arrive unexpectedly for tea, Zahra realises that the dangers of the past could still destroy her.
Revenge by Taslima Nasrin, translated by Honor Moore
Revenge is a delicious novel about getting even, from one of the most controversial and internationally acclaimed writers of her generation.
In modern Bangladesh, Jhumur marries for love and imagines life with her husband, Haroon, will continue much as it did when they were dating. But once she crosses the threshold of Haroon’s family home, Jhumur finds she is expected to be the traditional Muslim wife: head covered, eyes averted, and unable to leave the house without an escort. When she becomes pregnant, Jhumur is shocked to discover that Haroon doesn’t believe the baby is his. Overwhelmed by his mistrust, Jhumur plots her revenge in the arms of a handsome neighbour.