Review Blog

Jul 09 2012

Into the darkest corner by Elizabeth Haynes

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Text, 2012, ISBN 9781921922541.
(Adult and mature senior students). This is a confronting and disturbing novel about sadistic domestic abuse and murder. It begins with a transcript; the defendant has been accused of violence towards his girlfriend. The second chapter describes a murder. The action then follows two trajectories four years apart. In the earlier Cathy is a confident, attractive and risk-taking young woman supported by friends and on the lookout for attractive men. In the second a fragile, obsessive-compulsive sufferer clings to routines that she believes will help her to survive. This is Cathy, four years after she meets the exciting and mysterious Lee. She has been traumatized by Lee, then by the police, by the court system and by psychiatric hospitals. In the earlier story Lee's behaviour follows the pattern of the classic domestic abuser in many ways. He attempts to persuade his victim, Cathy, that she is at fault; he shows remorse for over-reacting and tries to compensate; he also isolates his victim, in this case by persuading her friends that she is self-harming. Lee is more than an abuser; he is a sadistic murderer. Cathy is no easy victim and attempts to escape, but in a frightening scene she is recaptured and serious abuse begins. Fortunately this grimness is balanced by the later story in which Cathy has met a psychologist and starts treatment for her OCD. Lee has been in prison but is released and Cathy is convinced that he will come to find her. He does, and begins abuse of a former friend. Cathy is able to control her fear and plans to confront Lee. The book concludes with another court case. The description of falling in love and being with a man whom all her friends admire is convincing. The scenes of helplessness and paralysis induced by fear are riveting. The conclusion is compulsive reading. There is little attempt to explain the actions of Lee or why Cathy's friends so easily abandon her, and it is unbelievably lucky for her that a psychologist moves in upstairs. However, the novel is ultimately a celebration of survival against the odds. Unfortunately the language and some of the action make this not suitable for general use in schools.
Jenny Hamilton

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