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Dark Chapter: Hard-Hitting Crime Fiction Based on a True Story

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Winner of the Not the Booker Prize 2017 NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL 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 Winner of the Not the Booker Prize 2017 NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL 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.


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Winner of the Not the Booker Prize 2017 NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL 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 Winner of the Not the Booker Prize 2017 NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL 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.

30 review for Dark Chapter: Hard-Hitting Crime Fiction Based on a True Story

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Although the book descriptions obscure the subject of this book, the blurbs on the back cover reveal that it is about a rape. Vivian Tan, a Harvard graduate in her late 20's works in London, in a job related to the film industry. She is invited to Belfast to the 10th anniversary of the Peace Accord. After all of the meetings, she decides to go for a hike in a park near West Belfast where she crosses paths with a 15-year-old Traveler Johnny Sweeney and suffers a violent sexual assault. The author Although the book descriptions obscure the subject of this book, the blurbs on the back cover reveal that it is about a rape. Vivian Tan, a Harvard graduate in her late 20's works in London, in a job related to the film industry. She is invited to Belfast to the 10th anniversary of the Peace Accord. After all of the meetings, she decides to go for a hike in a park near West Belfast where she crosses paths with a 15-year-old Traveler Johnny Sweeney and suffers a violent sexual assault. The author suffered a sexual assault herself. I am not sure who this book is for except perhaps as part of her own healing process. I rushed through the second half although I was tempted to discard it - not because I don't take the topic of such violence seriously but because it was relentless. It is always tricky to write about characters who are members of marginalized communities and who are often stereotyped as criminals, thugs, thieves, and worse. Li consulted with several organizations representing the Traveler community. Yet despite this, I believe readers cannot walk away from this book seeing Johnny's crimes as the aberrations of an individual sociopath. Rather I believe they will reinforce prior stereotypes they've had of Travelers or if this is an unfamiliar community to them, they will finish the book with negative impressions of the community, and not just of Johnny. Trigger warning The details of the assault are long and very violent. The police interviews and trial repeat them again. I honestly cannot recommend this book to anyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    An exceptionally courageous exploration of how different people's life circumstances can mold them into who they become and cause a violent and devastating clash when they happen to meet in the wrong place at the wrong time. An exceptionally courageous exploration of how different people's life circumstances can mold them into who they become and cause a violent and devastating clash when they happen to meet in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    If I had to choose only three words to sum up Li’s debut novel Dark Chapter, it would be: compelling, well-written and courageous. Drawing on her own personal experiences, the author’s account of her character’s journey to reclaim her life after the traumatic assault and rape she suffered at the hands of her attacker is well drawn and authentic – as it is harrowing and disturbing. Some readers may find the scenes describing Vivian’s rape confronting, but I thought they are refreshingly honest an If I had to choose only three words to sum up Li’s debut novel Dark Chapter, it would be: compelling, well-written and courageous. Drawing on her own personal experiences, the author’s account of her character’s journey to reclaim her life after the traumatic assault and rape she suffered at the hands of her attacker is well drawn and authentic – as it is harrowing and disturbing. Some readers may find the scenes describing Vivian’s rape confronting, but I thought they are refreshingly honest and brave. Her visceral account of events is not added for shock value, but to recount her character’s experience in all its gritty reality. Vivian’s voice is natural and engaging, and she quickly drew me into the story. Having been in contact with victims of rape and assault through my work as an A&E nurse, the story really highlighted the long, ongoing journey these women face in trying to come to terms with the trauma and to move on from it despite the havoc it wreaked on their lives. “The person she is now. The person she still can be. The person she always was.” Personally, I felt the courtroom scenes especially harrowing, and am not surprised that many women shy away from laying charges just because they cannot face the additional burden of being in the media spotlight and under crossfire from the lawyers. How horrible to have to relive your worst nightmare, and having to justify your own actions, when you are the innocent party. Incredible, really, that our society allows the victims of rape and assault to be further traumatised like this! “And then she realises how ridiculously unfair this whole system is. She was the one who was walking along on her own, when he did this to her. And then she has to wait almost a year to sit in front of a room full of strangers, tell them the humiliating truth, stand up to a sleaze-bag barrister trying to paint her as a villain-seductress and then listen to the boy make up this trash about her? Is this what we have to subject ourselves to, in order to get justice?” Dark Chapter is told in two alternating voices – that of vivacious Vivian, setting out on a hike she has been looking forward to; and that of 15-year old Johnny Sweeney, a troubled boy who is about to destroy her trust and innocence forever. Whilst I am often not a fan of getting too much into the mind of the perpetrator in novels, Li’s book proved that – if executed the right way (i.e. to add depth, not shock value) – this approach can add a lot to the story. Whilst I found this rapist remorseless and lacking in insight, and could make no excuses for his actions, exploring his childhood and upbringing did sow a small seed of empathy for his troubled mind. I applaud the author for being able to present the perpetrator in such an honest light, when a lot of emotions must be tangled up in the story for her. Focusing on the events surrounding a horrific assault and rape and the effects on the victim’s life afterwards, Dark Chapter is a story of courage, hope and moving forward. I loved Li’s writing, which is as unflinchingly honest as it is engaging. It is obvious that a lot of the author’s emotions were tied up in this story, and she conveys them effortlessly to the reader, giving us a true-to-live main protagonist that is so real she could be your friend, neighbour, relative. Although some might find it confronting in its honesty, I couldn’t put it down would recommend it highly to female and male readers alike. I hope to read a lot more from this talented author in future. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review. *blog* *facebook* *instagram*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    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 Fores 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    To award stars because of enjoying the book, or to award stars as recognition that it is an important piece of literature that is well written, that is the question. This is almost impossible to enjoy as a novel, through Winnie Li’s writing is to be admired especially considering the she herself is a rape victim. I have read a couple of books this year about the neglect of children and along with this, should you choose to read them, such books need to be spaced apart, with plenty of levity in b To award stars because of enjoying the book, or to award stars as recognition that it is an important piece of literature that is well written, that is the question. This is almost impossible to enjoy as a novel, through Winnie Li’s writing is to be admired especially considering the she herself is a rape victim. I have read a couple of books this year about the neglect of children and along with this, should you choose to read them, such books need to be spaced apart, with plenty of levity in between. The perpetrator’s story is not any easier to handle here either. Johnny Sweeney is from an Irish Travelling community, has himself been physically abused and neglected, in that he has had no education. There can be no excuse for his actions, but by way of explanation it is of interest. Not an easy read, though quite a quick one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    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 Fore 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Scott

    When Vivian goes hiking alone in an unfamiliar part of Belfast, she meets 15-year-old Johnny and her life is never the same afterwards I really struggled with this book and how to rate it. Usually, I rate a book according to how much I enjoyed it, but this book was not an enjoyable read. In fact, it should come with a warning that it contains intense images of rape and violence. Not that it is a voyeuristic or lurid novel. Far from it. Dark Chapter is an intense, gritty drama about one woman's jo When Vivian goes hiking alone in an unfamiliar part of Belfast, she meets 15-year-old Johnny and her life is never the same afterwards I really struggled with this book and how to rate it. Usually, I rate a book according to how much I enjoyed it, but this book was not an enjoyable read. In fact, it should come with a warning that it contains intense images of rape and violence. Not that it is a voyeuristic or lurid novel. Far from it. Dark Chapter is an intense, gritty drama about one woman's journey from victim to hero. Still, it's not my typical read, and I think it was mislabeled by the publisher as a mystery/thriller. I'm not one to give out five-star reviews on a whim. Books must earn that rating. What made this book a five-star was its amazing writing. It's stark style works well with the subject matter. Li draws the reader into the story and doesn't let her go. Dark Chapter is a compelling story, and I couldn't put it down. I was rooting for the heroine the entire time. This book offers an unflinching view of an unspeakable crime. It won't be for every reader, but it is definitely a novel of great worth.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This book was painful and brutal yet simultaneously beautiful and necessary. I could not put it down and I stayed up too late past my bedtime to finish it. I hadn't read many detailed summaries before receiving an ARC from Netgalley (thank you to NetGalley and the publisher!) so I actually had no idea that the catalyst to the story was a rape. To be totally honest, I'm not sure I would have read the book had I known that rape was at the forefront. However, I'm incredibly glad that I read this. T This book was painful and brutal yet simultaneously beautiful and necessary. I could not put it down and I stayed up too late past my bedtime to finish it. I hadn't read many detailed summaries before receiving an ARC from Netgalley (thank you to NetGalley and the publisher!) so I actually had no idea that the catalyst to the story was a rape. To be totally honest, I'm not sure I would have read the book had I known that rape was at the forefront. However, I'm incredibly glad that I read this. The strength of both the writing and the protagonist's journey was inspiring, and it's not often that I am so emotionally touched by a book. I hope readers don't avoid this book because of the topic, because there is a lot to be gained from this stunning debut. Knowing that it was very loosely based on the author's own experiences makes it even more meaningful. To the author: Thank you for writing this book. It is extremely important and you have my utmost respect for not shying away from any part of a traumatic experience, no matter how ugly or difficult. The raw honesty in your writing meant a lot to me and I am looking forward to hopefully more novels from you!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Fenton

    Seriously I really don't think anything I have to say here does this book justice and I don't want to give this book the usual "riveting, gripping, page-turning" review because this is a book that everyone needs to read. Dark Chapter is based on a true story and inspired by the authors own sexual assault and therefore every word written is brutal, raw and harrowing. Often when I write reviews I might refer to the characters or the twists or the atmosphere, but Dark Chapter is a book that doesn't Seriously I really don't think anything I have to say here does this book justice and I don't want to give this book the usual "riveting, gripping, page-turning" review because this is a book that everyone needs to read. Dark Chapter is based on a true story and inspired by the authors own sexual assault and therefore every word written is brutal, raw and harrowing. Often when I write reviews I might refer to the characters or the twists or the atmosphere, but Dark Chapter is a book that doesn't require any of that in my opinion. This is a book that evoked powerful feelings from the opening page to the final chapter. How did it make me feel? Well simply put I think I felt too many emotions to list them all. Firstly when reading Vivian's side of the story I was shocked, horrified, scared, traumatised and angry for her and with her throughout her story. Because the book is based on Winnie's real life attack I knew that Vivian's emotions and responses were real and that made everything raw. Her bravery in telling this story and making the reader feel her pain and horror is incredible and so intimate that you are able to feel everything Vivian's experiencing. Reading Johnny's version of the events made me sick to my stomach, angry and ashamed that there are people in the world who think this behaviour is acceptable or normal. There is very little I can add to this review except that it is a very brave and brutal story based on true events. A powerful and harrowing book which I know will stay with me for a very long time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert Intriago

    A very good story about a rape and the effects the crime has on the perpetrator and the victim, but not truly a mystery. This book was nominated for an Edgar Award and after reading it you can see why. The beginning is a little confusing and it takes a little bit to unravel it. Once you get into the story it is page turning. The story is told from two perspectives: the perpetrator and the victim. I found the story of the perpetrator very enlightening as it delves into the life of “the travelers” A very good story about a rape and the effects the crime has on the perpetrator and the victim, but not truly a mystery. This book was nominated for an Edgar Award and after reading it you can see why. The beginning is a little confusing and it takes a little bit to unravel it. Once you get into the story it is page turning. The story is told from two perspectives: the perpetrator and the victim. I found the story of the perpetrator very enlightening as it delves into the life of “the travelers” in Ireland. The story of the victim is also revealing in the sense of the humiliation the person goes through at the hands of the system while physical evidence is being gathered and at trial. A very well written book with great character development. I found the character of the perpetrator quite good and believable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Vivian and Johnny, two very different people from two very different backgrounds whose paths are on course for collision. In The Dark Chapter, Winnie Li takes us on a journey that changed her life forever. This is a story based on reality, it’s a tough and emotional read but it is also a story of strength, resilience and a journey to recovery. It is a story that needs to be read. It is harrowing, and despite being fiction, it is a raw read as we know that the author is also a survivor of rape. Th Vivian and Johnny, two very different people from two very different backgrounds whose paths are on course for collision. In The Dark Chapter, Winnie Li takes us on a journey that changed her life forever. This is a story based on reality, it’s a tough and emotional read but it is also a story of strength, resilience and a journey to recovery. It is a story that needs to be read. It is harrowing, and despite being fiction, it is a raw read as we know that the author is also a survivor of rape. This might not be the whole of her story but it is written from the heart and the perspective of someone who has lived through this experience and so it is difficult not to feel that emotional connection with Vivian. The prologue is so intense as the narrator watches herself from a distance taking a journey she is powerless to stop. Right from the very beginning I was drawn in and in doing so was taken on the journey alongside Vivian all of the way. The book follows alternate chapters in which Vivian and Johnny’s lives are traced leading up to the event that would change their lives forever; the very ordinariness of their lives and experiences, how events and people shaped the people they became, was a powerful and tense read. It was impossible to read it and not feel the emotions that Vivian felt. From start to finish was an emotional rollercoaster. When Johnny was narrating his story it was difficult not to feel conflicted; as a human being watching the life of a young boy being shaped in such a way that it would have been nigh on impossible for him not to take the wrong path in life, it was hard not to feel sorrow for him, not to want to lay the blame on his upbringing, the discrimination faced by travellers, but it was also gut wrenching as I knew that this story was being written by a woman who had experienced the trauma that Johnny was about to inflict on her. We know that this is not Winnie Li’s attacker she is writing about as she knows nothing about him other than he was from the travelling community; he pled guilty and so there was no trial, no background information or defence lawyer trying to silence her truth. Despite the conflict mentioned above, it was impossible to empathise with him as he played out the part that was to change this woman’s life forever. Some may ask is Winnie giving the rapist a voice or is she using fiction and writing as a therapeutic process? Having met and listened to Winnie speak, I’d say it was the latter, it is a courageous and compassionate woman who can take her experience and write about it from the perspective of the survivor as well as the perpetrator. I would say that fiction plays an important part in opening up conversations about rape and about violence; understanding why someone has done something is not condoning the act but it does help shatter the silence around the subject which is what we need to be doing; it encourages the conversations that we all need to be having. The loneliness of Vivian struck me to the core, as she came to terms with having to censor her story to protect the listeners, to having to protect others from her pain: but also the sheer strength of her as an individual, a survivor and a voice that needed to be heard. The courtroom scenes were written so well that I found myself sitting in the room watching the wheels of justice churning, I felt Vivian’s pain as she was left feeling exposed once more, reliving the rape under cross-examination, her pain yet her determination to see the process through in order to see justice done. It laid bare conflicts she felt, should she cry? Should she be strong and composed? How do the public expect a survivor of rape to behave? All these questions and thoughts that no individual should ever have to be thinking. I wept reading this book, not because I think her life is ruined but I wept that she has had to go through this pain to write this novel, to write a novel where the research done was based on her experience, I wept that she was strong enough to tell this story and to carry on speaking out for those who have not yet been able to find their voice

  12. 5 out of 5

    Abby Slater- Fairbrother

    This novel is loosely based around, the authors real-life sexual assault. I found this incredibly brave and it offered the reader an insight into the rape survivor’s inner most private thoughts. This novel begins before the attack has taken place and ends 5 years after. It is written with a raw honesty and you genuinely feel the emotions, the protagonist Vivian goes through. “They say events like this change your life forever” This is the opening line to this novel and very much sums up the entir This novel is loosely based around, the authors real-life sexual assault. I found this incredibly brave and it offered the reader an insight into the rape survivor’s inner most private thoughts. This novel begins before the attack has taken place and ends 5 years after. It is written with a raw honesty and you genuinely feel the emotions, the protagonist Vivian goes through. “They say events like this change your life forever” This is the opening line to this novel and very much sums up the entire novel. We meet protagonist Vivian and we see, she is a young woman with a keen interest in travel and is slightly naive when it comes to the opposite sex. We also meet soon to be rapist, Johnny. Whom lives a life of poverty, in a divided community in Ireland. His life is marred by his father’s alcoholism, domestic violence and brother’s criminality. As much as I was disgusted and horrified by Johnny’s actions. I had the sense he was destined to a life behind bars. Vivian has a delightful optimistic outlook on life. She is rather innocent in her views of people and their behaviour. I by no means mean this, as a negative towards her character. Women should feel safe to go hiking alone in the Irish countryside. I personally and unfortunately, grew up with childhood best friend, who would also go on to become a rape victim. I think this opened my eyes at a very young age, to the dangers that can lurk behind a man’s intentions. I also think this has influenced the way in which I raise my own teenage daughter. But people are individuals and we all form our views/opinions via the life experiences we are made aware of. This novel definitely provided much room for debate and discussion around key issues such as, rape culture and victim blaming. We see cases like Vivian’s too often, played out over the media. One thing I knew for certain, was that when Vivian and Johnny’s lives finally collided, it would be brutal. The attack that is described in the novel, holds nothing back. It is a savage and vicious attack, one that shocks you to your core! What is also shocking, is that this was committed by a boy of just 15 years of age. When the friendly charade performed by Johnny is fully unmasked, with the words “Do you like to have sex outdoors?”. My eyes closed with sheer dread! The novel also goes on to detail the aftermath of the assault from Vivian’s perspective. The physical examinations, injury/medical treatment and mental anguish. As Vivian struggles to accept that she is now a rape victim. She battles feelings of shame and disgust at herself. She struggles to find the words to break the news to friends and family. There were moments where I put myself in her shoes and winced as I imagined the horror, of picking up that phone and calling my loved ones. The trail eventually looms and the defendant chooses a not guilty plea, which will only serve to further torment the victim. Johnny appears to show no remorse and his narrative becomes much darker. As you become fully aware, of his broken and disillusioned outlook on life. On the whole this novel is educational, emotional and possibly the most truthful depiction of rape as a central plot. I think the author has done a phenomenal job and I applaud her courageous approach to the subject. I am sure the writing process broke her heart several times, even if, in its entirety it may help her to heal. I shall finish this review with a quote from Vivian’s thoughts, one that I felt summed up her experiences in Dark Chapter. 4* “There will be violation upon violation”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan Hampson

    The title of this book is so very perfect and although to the reader it represent the very horrific and brutal facts of the story, for the author and assailant it is the dark chapters in their lives following the thirty minutes that they actual knew each other. It is a courageous story told by the author, herself the victim. The thing that I admire greatly about her is being able to not only tell her side of the story but also that of the young teenager that violated and raped her. There is a bac The title of this book is so very perfect and although to the reader it represent the very horrific and brutal facts of the story, for the author and assailant it is the dark chapters in their lives following the thirty minutes that they actual knew each other. It is a courageous story told by the author, herself the victim. The thing that I admire greatly about her is being able to not only tell her side of the story but also that of the young teenager that violated and raped her. There is a back drop of both characters from when they were growing up, where their childhood years couldn’t have been more different. Vivian confidant, educated and in a successful career loved walking and exploring, at times, in more remote areas. Johnny was a travellers son, being dragged up, for lack of a better word, by his abusive father. His world was one of violence which he had witnessed between his father and mother. The stories from other lads about taking ‘what they wanted’ from girls as a right were regularly told to him. Then one day Johnny sees Vivian walking and both of their lives would be destroyed by what followed. Winnie M Li, the author describes every frightening and terrifying action and thought that she experienced, her desperate pleas, her bargaining and quick thinking to ensure her survival. Then the thoughts of Johnny, how he sees the events, his right to do what he is doing and how he knows this is ‘what she wants too’.  There was such an helplessness that I felt when I was reading this, a boy so damaged by how he was brought up actually  thinking that this was normal, to the woman who I knew would never forget this day. The court case that followed was just as horrific. The story though goes much further and describes how it affected the relationships of both Vivian and Johnny with their families and friends. I truly admire this author that has had the courage to write about this terrible time in her life but the ability to look into the mind of this young man was remarkable. There is nothing tacky about this story, this is a detailed account of what happened. Truly courageous.

  14. 5 out of 5

    E. Mellyberry

    Once in a while there comes a book that knocks you down, tears you apart, then puts you together again a much inspired woman. DARK CHAPTER does that. I ran out of post-its to mark the important words. I used my camera to snap evey phrase that spoke to me but soon my phone was full with more than a hundred snapshots of this book. Every page is important. Every phrase is true, gripping, gut-wrenching, emotional, angry, powerful, strong. STRONG.This book, this story? STRONG. The voice? STRONG. 💖 Tri Once in a while there comes a book that knocks you down, tears you apart, then puts you together again a much inspired woman. DARK CHAPTER does that. I ran out of post-its to mark the important words. I used my camera to snap evey phrase that spoke to me but soon my phone was full with more than a hundred snapshots of this book. Every page is important. Every phrase is true, gripping, gut-wrenching, emotional, angry, powerful, strong. STRONG.This book, this story? STRONG. The voice? STRONG. 💖 Trigger warning: rape and battery. If you think this might be painful, please do not read beyond this point. Though if you could, I encourage you to. This book heals. It won't be right away, but it will lead you from a dark place to the light. It will prepare you for the truth, for the reality. It's neither ugly or pretty. Truth is truth. Reality can be unfair and lack of compassion. It is what it is. If other books mindfuck us with their twist and turn, this book punches me with its brutal truth. 💗 "And then she realizes how ridiculously unfair this whole system is. She was the one who was walking along on her own when he did this to her. And then she has to wait almost a year to sit in front of a room full of strangers, tell them the humiliating truth, stand up to a sleazy-bag barrister trying to paint her as a villain-seductress, then listen to the boy make up this trash about her? Is this what we have to subject ourselves to, in order to get justice?" VIVIAN TAN 💖 DARK CHAPTER gives me an unapologetic, uncensored picture of the aftermath. The damage and the pain doesn't stop once you are rescued, or when the criminal is convicted. The author has pushed the meaning of the word STRONG to a whole new level. I admire her and Vivian's strength. I admire the author's compassion in giving the assailant in this story a voice too. He's despicable but he has a voice and we hear it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I received this from Legend Press to review as part of a blog tour (my spot is on the 14th I'm v excited!). So I'll upload a full review after this point. Dark Chapter is unlike any book I've read, it's brutal and truthful and gives a real insight in to the effects that sexual assault can have. It's a tough read but it's also an important one! I received this from Legend Press to review as part of a blog tour (my spot is on the 14th I'm v excited!). So I'll upload a full review after this point. Dark Chapter is unlike any book I've read, it's brutal and truthful and gives a real insight in to the effects that sexual assault can have. It's a tough read but it's also an important one!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Ryles

    If I could only write one sentence about this book it would be: Dark Chapter is a disturbing and compelling book but quite simply STUNNING! I could no more tear my eyes from the page than I could forget to breathe. As difficult as it was to read at times, it was quite impossible to stop reading. Vivian has come to Belfast to see the sights, but gets more than she bargained for when she is raped; shocked and stunned, she reports the crime but as much courage as that took, she needs to call on grea If I could only write one sentence about this book it would be: Dark Chapter is a disturbing and compelling book but quite simply STUNNING! I could no more tear my eyes from the page than I could forget to breathe. As difficult as it was to read at times, it was quite impossible to stop reading. Vivian has come to Belfast to see the sights, but gets more than she bargained for when she is raped; shocked and stunned, she reports the crime but as much courage as that took, she needs to call on greater strength to see it through. Seeing the crime from both sides is shocking and surprising and I can't even begin to imagine what Winnie M Li has been through in order to call upon such emotions. The Prologue of Dark Chapter sets the pace, where I felt sick with fear and my heart raced with the increasing tension as we hurtled towards the inevitable conclusion. Although there are no chapters, which usually would annoy me, but in this case I barely blinked, I raced through the 5 parts of the book: part 1 the time leading up to the event, part 2 the aftermath, part 3 the arrest of Johnny, part 4 the trial and part 5 new beginnings. What I found amazing, was that I didn't feel sorry for Vivian, I felt every emotion with her. I felt as if the crime had been committed against my very own person and I was as MAD as hell. Dark Chapter deserves every accolade that is coming its way, and I'm sure there will be many. To write a book filled with such emotion showing both sides of a story is nothing short of exceptional. As such abuse seems to be in the news recently, this is a book that is both very current and also very timeless. Seeing the story from both sides is both mesmerising and jawdropping, making Dark Chapter an absolutely stunning work of fiction, with a disturbing ring of truth. I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

    At first it was a little confusing, starting at the end, then jumping to the beginning. Then onto the childhood of Vivian, living in America, her education and her love of travel with her arrival to the UK. At the same time as Vivian’s story we are told about Johnny, a teenager of Irish Travellers, his upbringing is very different and hard. Once I had gone a few chapters into the book and understood the switching between characters, then I was well and truly hooked. The book tells how two people At first it was a little confusing, starting at the end, then jumping to the beginning. Then onto the childhood of Vivian, living in America, her education and her love of travel with her arrival to the UK. At the same time as Vivian’s story we are told about Johnny, a teenager of Irish Travellers, his upbringing is very different and hard. Once I had gone a few chapters into the book and understood the switching between characters, then I was well and truly hooked. The book tells how two people come to be in one place at the same time. How that meeting changed both of their lives. What I found interesting was how the author had also incorporated the thoughts of both the victim and the attacker. It gave a very deep and in-depth perspective. Two views that are so opposite to each other. The characters are different in their mannerisms, outlooks on life, their education, their everything. The book, once I had got used to the style, was then set out in a very logical way. It gives details up to the attack, the attack, the trial and also the after effects of the attack As I read the section regarding the trial especially, I had a lump in my throat, just holding back the tears until the verdict was delivered. At this point I had to put down the book, I could not see through my tears. I was amazed at how caught up I had got in this story. I found once I had started this book, it was very difficult to put down. There are some uncomfortable reading moments as you would expect. It has an honesty that is heartbreaking, emotional and inspiring. I would recommend this book to readers of contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, crime genres.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Told with empathy and insight, this powerful and unflinching story of a young woman’s rape and its aftermath is based on the author’s own experience, and feels convincingly authentic. Narrated in two alternating voices, the victim's and the assailant's, it’s the tale of a young Taiwanese-American woman who enjoys travelling independently and is always aware of the risks. However, when walking in a Belfast park her path crosses with a disadvantaged 15-year-old Traveller boy, Johnny, and what foll Told with empathy and insight, this powerful and unflinching story of a young woman’s rape and its aftermath is based on the author’s own experience, and feels convincingly authentic. Narrated in two alternating voices, the victim's and the assailant's, it’s the tale of a young Taiwanese-American woman who enjoys travelling independently and is always aware of the risks. However, when walking in a Belfast park her path crosses with a disadvantaged 15-year-old Traveller boy, Johnny, and what follows is a harrowing sexual assault. Although I am impressed with the author’s honesty, and although it’s an important and relevant theme, the writing didn’t draw me in, and although we are privy to Johnny’s though processes I still felt on the outside looking in rather than fully invested in the characters. A brave book, as others have commented, but not one that engaged me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Imi

    DNFed @ 28%. Uncomfortable to read being a book about rape, especially as it's apparently based on the author's own experience. So definitely a difficult subject to read about and I simply don't want to read more. I'm also finding the writing a little weak and unengaging. Of course this is difficult subject to write about well. Leaving unrated. DNFed @ 28%. Uncomfortable to read being a book about rape, especially as it's apparently based on the author's own experience. So definitely a difficult subject to read about and I simply don't want to read more. I'm also finding the writing a little weak and unengaging. Of course this is difficult subject to write about well. Leaving unrated.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jane Willis

    As other readers have commented, the constantly changing viewpoint makes it quite difficult to follow this book to start with, but it is well worth persevering because it is a mechanism used to very effectively build up the suspense and horror of the time leading up to the assault, and of the assault itself. We know right from the outset that there WILL be an assault, and I was rather surprised to find it happened half way through the book: once I'd reached that part I thought "So what now?" but As other readers have commented, the constantly changing viewpoint makes it quite difficult to follow this book to start with, but it is well worth persevering because it is a mechanism used to very effectively build up the suspense and horror of the time leading up to the assault, and of the assault itself. We know right from the outset that there WILL be an assault, and I was rather surprised to find it happened half way through the book: once I'd reached that part I thought "So what now?" but the aftermath of the scene and the effects it had on Vivian, Johnny and their friends and families actually kept me rivetted right to the last page. A great debut but I'm worried that if the author writes another book, it may not tell such a powerful story. The plot for this book was inspired by personal experience, and I would hope that nobody goes through an experience as horrible and powerful as the one that inspired this book more than once in their lifetime. It will be interesting to see if she can write as well when drawing purely from imagination rather than experience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Volkova

    I won this book in a giveaway and when it finally arrived and I started reading,it seemed confusing,I didn't expect it to be written in two POVs, but it soon became clear to me that this way the story would uncover in two different perspectives and display all the terrifying things that goes in minds of rapists and how destructive it is for the victim to live everyday after the assault. I really wanted to finish this book as soon as possible,it was too hard for me to read, I would put it down an I won this book in a giveaway and when it finally arrived and I started reading,it seemed confusing,I didn't expect it to be written in two POVs, but it soon became clear to me that this way the story would uncover in two different perspectives and display all the terrifying things that goes in minds of rapists and how destructive it is for the victim to live everyday after the assault. I really wanted to finish this book as soon as possible,it was too hard for me to read, I would put it down and do something else to calm myself and then come back to it the next day. But today I said I would finish it and I did,and I'm so proud of the author that she could put part of her life into words and allow us to read about it. I still have several unanswered questions and I'm not happy the way it ended,but that's what life is,right? You can't always be happy about it,but you can keep on living no matter what happens.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings)

    Won in Goodreads Giveaways - not read, passed on to another reader.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Colette Lamberth

    I became aware of this book after it won The Guardian Not the Booker Prize 2017 and thought that I would like to read it. This is a work of fiction based on the author’s experience of rape rather than a memoir. I’m not sure how I would cope with reading a memoir knowing that it was all true. That said this is a very powerful and moving tale told from the viewpoints of Johnny the rapist and Vivian the victim. I wasn’t at all comfortable with the voice of Johnny as I was reading particularly the c I became aware of this book after it won The Guardian Not the Booker Prize 2017 and thought that I would like to read it. This is a work of fiction based on the author’s experience of rape rather than a memoir. I’m not sure how I would cope with reading a memoir knowing that it was all true. That said this is a very powerful and moving tale told from the viewpoints of Johnny the rapist and Vivian the victim. I wasn’t at all comfortable with the voice of Johnny as I was reading particularly the courtroom scenes. I’m glad that Vivian’s story continued beyond the trial and let us see a bit more of her recovery. ‘The world is oblivious to what she’s just gone through. And unless she tells someone, anyone, they will never know about her journey through that valley, when she felt her way through in the dark’. I received a copy of Dark Chapter via NetGalley and my thanks to Legend Press for that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Greenberg

    Whilst I felt some of the writing was flawed, the rage this book engenders overpowers any note of criticism. This is the story of a rape from perspective of victim and assailant. Although this is fiction, it is, in essence, a re-telling of what did happen to the author. The fact that she can show the upbringing of the rapist and his violent, alcohol fuelled brutal childhood brimming with emotional deprivation, as a parallel narrative throughout the unfolding of the harrowing events, makes it all Whilst I felt some of the writing was flawed, the rage this book engenders overpowers any note of criticism. This is the story of a rape from perspective of victim and assailant. Although this is fiction, it is, in essence, a re-telling of what did happen to the author. The fact that she can show the upbringing of the rapist and his violent, alcohol fuelled brutal childhood brimming with emotional deprivation, as a parallel narrative throughout the unfolding of the harrowing events, makes it all the more powerful. It is a very harrowing read from so many perspectives. It is difficult not to see it as an indictment of the traveller lifestyle and yet Li has obviously spent time researching and learning, which may have formed a part of her recovery. A brilliant , poignant collage of trauma.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Love

    Dark Chapter is a powerful, riveting, and thought-provoking novel. Winnie M Li, is a courageous woman exploring the mind of an assailant, and her own assault, as an effort toward understanding and compassion. I felt Ms. Li’s story was my own, from the gripping prologue, “…a clean split struck straight down the breadth of your existence, severing your first twenty-nine years from all the years that come after…,” through to the end. I highly recommend this important work anyone who has ever strugg Dark Chapter is a powerful, riveting, and thought-provoking novel. Winnie M Li, is a courageous woman exploring the mind of an assailant, and her own assault, as an effort toward understanding and compassion. I felt Ms. Li’s story was my own, from the gripping prologue, “…a clean split struck straight down the breadth of your existence, severing your first twenty-nine years from all the years that come after…,” through to the end. I highly recommend this important work anyone who has ever struggled to find their own voice, their own understanding and compassion.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mo

    A hard courageous read based loosely on the authors true life experience . A tale of Vivian who was brutally raped by a young traveller boy . What makes this book compelling and heartbreaking is the emotions that come from Vivian and knowing these same emotions are from the heart of the author . Although Johnny is the bad guy here I still felt some sympathy to him as he really didn’t stand a chance in life with the upbringing( or lack of ) that he had . A book that will stay with me for a long t A hard courageous read based loosely on the authors true life experience . A tale of Vivian who was brutally raped by a young traveller boy . What makes this book compelling and heartbreaking is the emotions that come from Vivian and knowing these same emotions are from the heart of the author . Although Johnny is the bad guy here I still felt some sympathy to him as he really didn’t stand a chance in life with the upbringing( or lack of ) that he had . A book that will stay with me for a long time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Quinn

    Dark Chapter is heartbreaking, beautiful and thrilling. I started and finished it in less than 12 hours. I will admit I was reticent to begin it. As a victim of sexual assault, I wondered if it would trigger me. It did, but also maybe helped me close my own dark chapter. The unique element is that it shows the lives and minds of both victim and attacker. It isn’t always easy to walk in both stories, but it did allow me to find empathy for both characters. No one is the sum of one bad incident, e Dark Chapter is heartbreaking, beautiful and thrilling. I started and finished it in less than 12 hours. I will admit I was reticent to begin it. As a victim of sexual assault, I wondered if it would trigger me. It did, but also maybe helped me close my own dark chapter. The unique element is that it shows the lives and minds of both victim and attacker. It isn’t always easy to walk in both stories, but it did allow me to find empathy for both characters. No one is the sum of one bad incident, either as a victim or perpetrator. I found compassion for the characters as well as myself. It’s a powerful read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    DARK CHAPTER is such an awful story that is so beautifully written. This novel concerns a brutal rape and the aftermath told by the victim and the rapist. I believe the author to be a brave and courageous woman as DARK CHAPTER is based on what happened to her. I highly recommend this book to everyone. I came very close to giving this book 5 stars, and I want to thank Ms. Li for writing such a powerful book. I received this book for my honest opinion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Review to follow as part of blog tour 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 thi Review to follow as part of blog tour 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lafrog8

    Very difficult subject, but treated in a way that provides lots of clues as to why and how a rape can happen. It also describes its aftermath in a very humane way for both victim and perpetrator. Lots of food for thoughts in this book, and I believe it will stay with me for a long time to come. Everybody should read this book, in the #metoo awakening.

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