Violence and Murder (and Feminism): An Isolated Incident

Part of me is so weary of crime novels and TV dramas revolving around the discovery of (another) mutilated body of a woman.  What bugs me is not depicting the reality that women get murdered.  Of course they do, every day, of every week, of every year.  My issue is that I feel uncomfortable, even voyeuristic, watching the investigators, journalists and the rest of cast paw over the details of her life and her death.  Of course, her murder is never condoned and the murderer receives our strongest condemnation.  But beyond the surface-level motive, there is never any exploration of why this happened.  What is it about our culture that creates the space for these events; that makes it unsurprising when another women is violently murdered?

I picked up Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident expecting a run-of-the-mill crime thriller (although a very good one given its accolades), and found instead an astonishing novel that expertly delivers a poignant yet gripping read, while exploring the drivers of violence against women. I can’t think of another novel like it.

Young, female, Australian

Back in 1969, American short story writer and novelist John Cheever complained of the underdog status of short stories, calling the short story ‘something of a bum‘. I bought Six Bedrooms after being exhorted by Charlotte Wood (winner of 2016 Stella Prize) to support the Australian book industry by buying more books;  it turns out I am easily persuaded on such matters. Otherwise, I probably would’ve passed over this collection.  Like a lot of folk, I don’t tend to gravitate to short story collections, and my last exploration into this territory with Hot Little Hands left me feeling a little meh.  However, Tegan Bennet Daylight’s skill with this form has me recalibrating my position.

Sex & drugs, in the worst way

‘Now we make you ugly, my mother said.’  Ladydi is a young girl being raised by her mum in a remote part of Mexico near Alcapulco. Every aspect of Ladydi’s life – her friends, community, school – have been ravaged by drugs.  If the Netflix drama Narcos gives us a perspective on the life of one of the world’s most successful cocaine traffickers, Prayers for the Stolen presents the localised impact of the drugs trade.  Narcos‘ depiction of Pablo Escobar’s life was all about sex and drugs and violence but, at the centre of the story were the very rich men who made bad things happen to other people; these men wielded the control. None of the characters in Prayers of the Stolen, least of all the women, have any ability to control events around them- the most they can do is pretend their daughters are boys and ‘make them ugly’ to try and prevent the traffickers stealing them away in their black SUVs.