The Windemere School for Girls finds itself at the center of controversy following the publication of an explosive piece accusing a popular teacher, Dr. Gregory Copeland, of inappropriate behavior with a student. The former student, Caryn Rodgers, claims Windemere neglected to take appropriate action, effectively enabling Copeland to abuse other students; something Windemere denies. With the help of reporter Jane March, the investigation into Copeland and the school’s actions turns up more accusers, each one determined to have the truth come out, at last, about their former teacher.
We hear stories about such things on the news all the time, but—as Namkung points out in her statement at the end of the book—it’s estimated that at least 80% of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to the authorities, and 90% of these crimes are committed by someone the child knows and trusts. That’s a horrifying statistic, and These Violent Delights drives home that point in this fictional tale of three former students who were abused by a trusted, respected teacher.
This book isn’t always easy to read, and not just because of the focus on what the former students went through. It was almost worse, sometimes, seeing how Jane’s male colleagues immediately doubted Caryn’s story—’Why did she wait so long to report it?’ ‘Maybe she’s just looking for attention.’ ‘An accusation like this can ruin someone’s life.’—it was infuriating to read. It’s exactly the sort of thing that happens to accusers in real life, though, unfortunately.
The ending came with a revelation that left me shocked and more than a little disturbed. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, to be honest., but I’m betting it’s something I’ll never forget.
These Violent Delights is a very good book; its subject matter is distressing, but it’s meant to be. While this won’t be a book everyone feels comfortable reading, I feel it makes an important statement about the very real problem we have of teachers who prey on their students, and the lack of a federal registry listing teachers who have been fired and/or disciplined for sexual misconduct with a student, which I was completely unaware of before reading this book. I don’t anyone can read this book without feeling outraged that we, as a nation, haven’t taken steps to better protect our children from sexual predators in schools. (Yes, this is a novel, but a great deal of truth is often found in fiction. Such is the case here.)
I definitely recommend this book, and I’ll be eagerly waiting for Namkung’s next book!
About the Book
At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.