Book lover. Stephen King Fanatic. Will try anything once. General Lover of Fiction. Reviewer Everywhere. All views my own. Mostly.
For some reason this book has been all over my Goodreads news feed recently with various versions of WHAT THE HECK type reviews so when I wanted a book for my train journey yesterday I downloaded this one to see basically what the fuss was about.
I have to give it 5* but at the same time tell you to be very careful before deciding whether to read it or not. Break Her made me equal parts desolate and angry, it is an incredibly tough read but will push you to think about the unthinkable. It might take you somewhere you don't want to go. I was literally shaking by the end of this book and there was nothing good about my sleep last night.
B G Harlen has ignored any boundaries you may have thought existed when writing about violence against women. "Break Her" tells the story of a brutal and sustained rape, it is told in graphic detail and it never lets up. There is nothing erotic about this book, there is no quarter given, there are no nods to convention allowed in the visceral writing. So consider that before you start reading, understand that this author is not going to allow you any excuses to look away and for a lot of people it will go too far.
It is not gratuitious. The graphic detail serves only the story. You have to know it to grasp the reality. This novel is about survival. The characters don't have names. They are "he" and "she" there are no descriptions, no age given, even the scene of the event has little background It is simply two people locked in battle, he is determined to break her, she is determined to walk away mind intact. It is a mental battle, a physical battle, insights given into both sides - it will challenge your assumptions on every level, will make you question things you thought were beyond question and leave you with no answers whatsoever to help you work out how you feel.
The ultimate resolution is surprising, both expected and unexpected. What is more surprising is that occasionally this book may even make you smile. You won't want to but you might anyway. I have never read a book like this, layer upon layer of the most horrific reality with a touch of irony well placed to allow room to breathe. It is clever on so many levels that I could not possibly describe them all, and even now I'm not sure what to make of it. Devastating and compelling. Thought provoking and terrible. One thing I do know is that B G Harlen is one hell of a writer. And obviously completely unafraid to test the limits on an emotive subject.
Break Her is dark, darker and darkest. As the final, brutal and unrelenting finale approached I felt battered, emotional and tearful. Its likely I'll feel that way for a while. There are books about rape, of course in crime fiction violence against women, including rape, is everwhere a subject that is much discussed. What "Break Her" does is show you the devastation without external influences, no police, no mystery, no whodunnit whydunnit - just the total, utter devastation. And asks how far you might go to survive.
I'm not going to recommend it or not recommend it. I think that I would not like that responsibility. But hopefully the review at least helps you decide whether you could or should read it.