Some Thoughts on Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things or Should There Be Trigger Warnings on Books?

I finished Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things a couple of days ago and wasn’t sure whether I should review it or not. But then I thought of the many glowing reviews in newspapers and on blogs that made me pick this up and so I decided, while I won’t review it, I will write about my reactions to this book because they are so different from any one else’s. While most people loved it and even put it on their “Best of the Year” list, I truly hated it and wish I hadn’t read it. And, frankly, if I had known what to expect, I wouldn’t have picked it up. But before I write more, I have to emphasize – this isn’t a bad book. It just has elements in it, I wish I’d been made aware of.

I’ve read another Charlotte Wood novel, a few years ago, which made my end of year best of list. It’s a marvelous book and very different from this one. It’s one of the reasons why I continued reading The Natural Way of Things although I disliked it from the beginning. And since I’m bad at putting away books, once I’m halfway through, I finished it. It gave me nightmares and has planted some images in my head, I have a hard time getting rid of.

If you’ve read other reviews, you might be puzzled that it upset me so much and I can tell you, I get it, because nobody mentioned those elements.

The Natural Way of Things is a story about a group of girls who were each involved in a sex scandal. While the men aren’t punished, the girls are sent to a remote place, stripped of their clothes, shaven, barely fed and guarded by two brutal men who hit them and force them to work like slaves. It’s a lot like a concentration camp. Every review I read, mentioned this and how this is a feminist look at the way the media sees women and how women are still mostly the ones blamed when there’s a scandal. I didn’t have a problem with that, I had a problem with what follows. In the middle of the book, the captives and their captors realize they have been abandoned by the outside world. They run out of food and other basic supplies. And that’s when it started to get horrible for me because one of the girls decides to set traps and catch rabbits. Anyone knows that catching animals with traps, especially certain traps, is barbaric. Reading about this made me sick. Reading about the detailed ways the animals were taken apart, skinned, their fur prepared  . . . You get the picture. And there’s a scene towards the end, when a larger animal gets trapped . . . I’m not going to forget that.

I’m not sure why nobody mentioned the traps or those awful scenes linked to that. I wish they had because, as I said, I would have stayed away from this book. It would have worked as a trigger warning.

I suppose, you get why I still had to write about this because I know there are other people who are highly sensitive to anything involving animals.

That said, I don’t think Charlotte Wood should have written this any other way. I guess it works. One of the themes in her book is that of predator and prey and the trapped rabbits are linked to that theme. It’s not a bad book, but I was the wrong reader. If you’re like me and anything harming animals upsets you, you might want to stay away from this book.

The above may give you the impression that there isn’t any explicit violence against women in this book, but there is. I found that hard to stomach as well but I could handle it better.

This brings me to the topic of trigger warnings. I’ve seen debates, where people said that there should be trigger warnings on books. For all sorts of things. Cruelty against animals, kids and women, swearing, explicit sex, violence  . . . The list is as endless as people’s sensibilities. I don’t think that there should be trigger warnings because there’s always the risk that those could, in some countries, lead to the banning of certain books. I’m against book bans and I think that trigger warnings are also problematic because they simplify a complex theme. Let’s take The Natural Way of Things as an example. What should the warning have looked like “Violence against women” – that would have been possible, but the animal topic couldn’t have been covered by a similar concise warning. There’s no gratuitous violence, like in the case of the women. There’s killing, trapping, skinning and slow death. “Warning – animal trapping”. Weird. Some readers who are sensitive to cruelty against animals in books, might not even have found the instances here problematic because they are not gratuitous. You see, it’s tricky.

While I don’t think trigger warnings are the way to go, I still would have wished the one or the other review had made me aware that some of the content could be problematic for me. Nonetheless, it’s my fault I didn’t stop reading. I wish I will finally be able to abandon books that aren’t good for me, even when I’m halfway through.

How do you feel about this? Trigger warning or no trigger warning?

63 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things or Should There Be Trigger Warnings on Books?

  1. It’s very tricky. As a vegan feminist there’s a lot here that would trigger me big time. But I’m nervous about constant warnings because sometimes we have to come out of our comfort zones, and also would this then lead to calls for censorship of books? I mean, most modern crime novels with their violence against women cry out for a warning – I stopped reading them because of the gratuitous stuff. I think the jury is out on this one for me!

    • It is very tricky. The book bans/censorship are what worries me too. I agree, get out of our comfort zones is important but having nightmares and getting depressed by a book? Not so much.

      • I think that it makes sense to be consistent. Trigger warnings could in theory lead to censorship, but in the end they are different things. Thus I am fine with trigger warnings, but I oppose censorship.

        • That’s a valid point. I hadn’t thought of it this way. I guess, looking at it like this, they might be a good option but in has to be taken into consideration, as others say, that it might spoil the book.

  2. You’ve really got me thinking with this one Caroline. I really rated The Natural Way of Things and found it so powerful, but it is also deeply upsetting. I didn’t mention the animal cruelty in my review, I think because I was so focussed on what was happening to the women. And yet normally anything with animals is a trigger for me too. I’ve just finished a novel where I skipped the hunting scenes & there’s a novel I read about a year ago that I still wish I hadn’t, because a dog is brutally killed at the end. I don’t know if I would have chosen differently if there had been a trigger warning. As Kaggsy says, trigger warnings can lead to complex places. I’ll definitely give this more thought. Sorry for such a rambling comment! It’s a tricky one….

    • It’s a very complicated question and I still think there shouldn’t be a warning because it could lead to restrictive rules.
      I’d be glad to know which was the book about the dog – maybe it’s on my piles.
      The cruelty against the women got to me as well but after a while that became less frequent. I didn’t see the other, animal related parts, coming.

  3. There is a lot in that book I would hate, and I think I’m guaranteed not to read it. However I also agree with Karen about the risk of warnings everywhere. Publishers/authors also want to surprise readers and not reveal everything in the blurb or pre publication publicity. I think I would have just stopped reading. However where violence and animal cruelty is concerned I know many people would like the chance to avoid it. A tricky issue.

    • Not everything can be squeezed into a blurb and it doesn’t have to be. I was more astonished that not one reviewer, critic or blogger mentioned it. Of course, the cruelty against the women was bad enough. I have no clue why I didn’t just stop reading. I’m so bad at that.
      I would have been glad to get the chance to avoid it but I don’t think the writer and publisher need to take all this into consideration. Tricky.

  4. I think you raise a good point but have never felt that any book I’ve read needed a trigger warning as I guess in the back of my mind I always expect anything in literary fiction!
    As an aside, I was super excited to read The Natural Way of Things – particularly after all the fantastic reviews- and didn’t enjoy it. I love books with messages but also love it when they have a plot and characters that hook me…!

    • True and I agree, there shouldn’t be any but sometimes I wish I knew. It’s obvious my problem, that I have a hard time not finishing books.
      Now that you mention your reaction to the book, I think that might have contributed to mine. I was underwhelmed at first and then stressed. I expected something very different. Possibly also that they would fight back.

  5. I also hate animal cruelty in fiction and have stayed away from some books because of it. Based on your commentary, I would not read this book.

    Trigger warnings have come under harsh scrutiny. I am fine with them, even if some have gone into the realm of silly.

  6. Thanks for writing this post Caroline. I know others who have disliked this book – for various reasons, though I haven’t seen many give this reason.

    I’m going to be a bit devil’s advocate here and ask why people find they can read books about violence against women but when something happens to an animal it’s an absolute turn-off? Is it because animals have no say? But then in cases where women are violated they have no say either. The way these women in this book were treated in the first place is barbaric, isn’t it? I find it really hard to understand what I see as more sensitivity to cruelty to animals than to others?? (I’ve heard this problem regarding animals from other bloggers too – which is why I’ve decided to ask the question, given your lovely honesty here)

    • I’m glad to hear that there were others who disliked this. I think that if the instances I found so upsetting hadn’t been in the book, I would have disliked it anyway.
      Now to your question – initially I had a small paragraph addressing this in my post. I’ve been like this since I was a small child. The pain of an animal always got to me more than the pain of grown-ups. Kids is different, but still, to be entirely honest, I’ll still suffer more to read about an animals suffering. But why? Yes, I do believe, as a species, they are more vulnerable and that, in general, most people take the side of the humans. So, I guess, I side with the weaker being – hence also siding with children. I also believe that mostly, in real life, people have far less problems with cruelty against animals than they have with cruelty against humans. I really think that my reaction has something to do with the fact that I believe pain is even worse for an animal than for a human because they cannot understand why something happens to them. And because they are free of malice and meanness.
      Not sure I was able to answer your question. It’s complex.

      • Lovely response Caroline that confirms I guess what I thought this is all about. I still find the differentiation in tolerance a little strange but I’m glad to have it clarified. I guess there’s a hierarchy of weakness but if you had a child who would die if you didn’t kill a rabbit to feed him/her, would you let that child die and save the rabbit? I don’t think I could. I think too that there is an argument that pain is less if you don’t understand. For example I’ve heard it said – but do we know – that an old deaf blind arthritic dog is basically content because it doesn’t remember when it wasn’t like that, whereas frail old humans tend to have to face the pain of their decline and the worry of increasing dependence every waking hour. They can become insomniac out of pain and worry. I don’t think old dogs lose sleep from my experience. They find a warm comfortable spot and sleep more. But I agree, it’s complex and we can tie ourselves up in knots can’t we?

        • Interesting argument about pain. I hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s another kind of pain than a slow, painful death and7or torturing. . . .
          While reading this I asked myself what I would do under these circumstances. Would I eat meat, just to save myself – or if I had a child, that child. I cannot answer it. I cannot imagine killing an animal but if I was starving. Who knows? People have eaten other people under such circumstances. I think I wouldn’t but it’s highly hypothetical. Hopefully, I’ll never have to make the choice.

          • Me too – re having to make that choice – but I think thinking about these things help focus the mind. Totally agree re slow torturing treatment. I guess I’m the sort of person who tries not to shy away from unpleasant things if I believe the work is of value. I avoid stories (novels, films) with lots of gratuitous violence for “entertainment” but those whose intentions are to make us think I can manage though not without some distress at times I admit. If that makes sense.

            • Well, as you may know I hosted a Literature and War readalong for years and even write a blog about war movies, so, I definitely don’t shy away from difficult topics. But Wood’s novel has more shock value than literary merit.
              I too think it’s good to be forced to think about certain things.

              • Sorry, I didn’t mean you did. I guess we are going to have to suffer on this one. I must say, if you have read my review, that I found it a little problematic myself, but not for that reasons you give. I do think it has literary merit and would disagree with some of your comment who define it as horror – though much of it us horrible. I am intrigued by the dystopian question. I can see what Lizzy is arguing, and she made me think, but I’m not sure dystopian has to be the whole society. Also there’s a sense that others are behind what has happened to the girls, including the men (lovers, brothers etc) who offered them up to the abductors, the company that is behind it, etc.

                Good discussion, eh?

                • A very good discussion. I finally read your review. I hadn’t read it before and answered some pints there. For me, this is t dystopian or, if so, lazy dystopian. Hardly any world building at all. Not proper horror either, although it’s horrific. I just mentioned in my comment on your blog that it’s interesting that there are such intense discussions about the execution of the book and far less about feminist elements.

                  • No I wouldnt call it horror as I said too, but I do think it’s dystopian. It’s a completely “closed” dystopian society she creates. I’m not sure what you and Lizzy mean by “world” but I think dystopian fiction is not necessarily about the whole world but about a “setting” or “society”. These women, and the men too, become completely isolated in a thoroughly unpleasant “world”. They can’t leave. The way they live, sleep, eat, survive is described – and it’s a life anyone I think would call dystopian. I’m not sure how much more world-building she could have done? Lord of the flies is similar… The boys are stranded on an island. We understand there is another world, the normal one in fact, but it’s what they create that makes their “world” dystopian. Animals farm, too, is just a farm within a wider world, but it’s also a self-contained world/society that turns bad. So, sorry, not horror I agree, but I think, having analysed Lizzy’s point more, it’s hard to argue against its being dystopian. We may argue (in the positive sense of argumentation) about how effective her book is, but I’d find it hard to argue that she hasn’t very thoroughly built a world.

                    • I think we have to agree to disagree on this. I guess, dystopian is debatable but I still maintain there’s zero world building here. World building, as the term is used in speculative fiction, is an elaborate creation of another world. Maybe I’m just being pedantic. In speculative fiction world building is the part that answers questions and here there are no answers, For me, this is just a labour camp story with feminist elements. Strictly speaking, dystopian needs to introduce us to the rules. If you compare this to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s clear that it’s not the same. I just think, if we call this dystopian, we’d have to call every story set in a concenration camp dystopian. Oh well . . . Who would have thought that this book could lead to so many intersting discussion strands.

  7. I’m the same way, Caroline. If I’ve invested the time to get halfway through a book, I feel compelled to finish it. Unless it’s just plain terrible.
    As for trigger warnings, I understand why they don’t come with books, even though TV programs and movies have them. Warnings could be spoilers and that would be unforgivable for many.
    But I would definitely want to know about animal cruelty, because I can’t stomach that or child abuse. I have a hard time with violence against women too. The book Paris Trout got raves, but I couldn’t stomach the main character and the abuse.

    • I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in this. I can stop after 20 – 50 pages but after 150 or more? Difficult. Unless, as you say, it’s pure drivel but in that instance, I’d probably stop earlier.
      I haven’t heard of Paris Trout but I don’t think I’ll pick it up.
      Violence is hard to take, no matter who is on the receiving end but when it comes to animals and small children, my threshold is even lower.
      There should be a way of wording a trigger warning so that it doesn’t spoil the book/movie.

  8. As you say, the themes really comes out well with the different sub plots. But I agree that all readers might not be okay with reading such gruesome scenes concerning animals. I don’t think I remember other reviews of the book mentioning it. Thanks for adding it to yours. Sorry this wasn’t the book for you.

    • I wonder now, especially after reading Whisperinggums review, whether people who didn’t like it did just abstain from writing about it. When a book gets such rave reviews, it can make you feel inadequate when you’re the only one not appreciating it. And the cruelty against the women is very bad as well.
      It really wasn’t the book for me. You liked it then?

  9. I found the whole novel barbaric and shocking, and I wasn’t expecting any of it. But it was so horrific, I couldn’t switch the audio book off. I wouldn’t have started it, if I had known in advance. So a trigger warning of extreme violence and cruelty would have been appreciated. (I don’t see the need to differentiate between cruelty to humans or animals.)

    The thing is I wouldn’t expect that trigger warning on a crime novel as such things come with the territory. But when such content appears in novels primarily marketed as literary fiction then I would advocate them, so that I can make a knowing choice about where I spend my money and time. Stef Penny’s latest novel is positively pornographic in places. I was and am still angry about that.

    I don’t see trigger warnings as a precursor to censorship. They don’t work that way on the TV. Horror movies are still broadcast but viewers are given the choice to switch off before they start. Honest marketing in the book industry can only be a good thing for readers. (And if publishers are afraid that this may reduce sales of a particular title, then perhaps it’s a clue that the book needs editing … which is not the same as censorship.)

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who reacted this strongly. I mainly wrote about the animals because absolutely nobody mentioned that, but looking back, I never saw the cruelty against the women mentioned either. When the thing with Barb happened, I’m sure you know what I mean, I also had a bad night. I definitely wouldn’t have read this if I had known in advance.
      You’re right about crime novels – we expect it to some degree, still occasionally, I’d love to know how gruesome/gory it is. Good to know about Penny’s novel. I don’t mind sex but pornography is something else entirely and I’d like to be warned.
      It is my fear that trigger warnings could lead to censorship. When I look at the type of books that are banned in the Us, for example, it makes me think it could happen. Editing is a different thing. In Wood’s case, I think it needed a warning, not editing.

      • I wouldn’t edit Wood’s novel either. Though as a reader I would categorise it as horror rather than literary fiction. However, horror afficionados would find it too tame.

        Similarly Penney’s novel isn’t erotica. And 2 x 20 page sections of extremely graphic sex probably doesn’t count as pornography to some …. but I’d rather they had been edited out, and I told her so at an author event! Conversely a warning on her novel might feed a sales increase!

        What it comes down to is that as a consumer I’d rather know what I was buying in advance. (Actually I thought that was my right, but in the literary world it appears not,)

        • I find it very interesting that you should call Wood’s novel “horror”. And you’re actually right. I didn’t feel it was dystopian as many said because we hardly hear anything about the society how women are treated in general and there’s the way the charcaters are presented – we never really warm to them. I didn’t. Or not warm but understand them. I horror books identification/empathy isn’t key.
          I’m glad now I wrote this post, even though I narrowed it down and only touched my reaction to the cruel/horrible things that happen to the animals. I also think it’s a touch manipulative. She really wants us to feel lousy, doesn’t she?
          I think it’s great you told Penny. And in that case, I also think a trigger warning would lead to more sales. 40 pages of pornography in a literary novel is a lot.
          I’m slowly able to get the images of Wood’s book out of my mind but I still wish I hadn’t read it. One should start sending back books like this or send them back to the editor and complain. I wonder if that’s possible in the US where you can even return a eye shadow palette if it doesn’t perform like you wished it would.

  10. I checked to see if I bought this but I didn’t. I know I would be disturbed by this too, so thanks for the review. It’s a dilemma at times: do you include things that are potentially spoilers AND YET those very spoilers could help someone avoid a book & a very bad experience.
    Thinking for example of domestic abuse: now mentioning that it’s present in a novel could be a spoiler but for some readers, domestic abuse is something they don’t want to read about for very good reason. Child abuse is another.
    So thanks for the post.

    • You’re welcome. I thought if you while reading this. You’d have found it very disturbing. It’s lucky you don’t have it. I have no solution but after reading a few of the comments above and thinking about my own reaction, it would be better to have some sort of warning. I hope you saw Mme Bibilophile’s comment about the book with the horrid dog scene above. That’s another book to avoid.

      • I often think of having little red circles on books for the warnings, so the one with animals would be a red circle with an animal inside.
        On another note though, while I don’t like to read about any cruelty to animals the level of description makes a difference. I mean how much is really necessary??
        I just finished LLosa’s The Neighbourhood and the level of detailed sex was the sort of thing you’d find in an adult mag. Totally unnecessary and I’m not saying this in a prudish or moral sense. Ok there was an affair but did we have to have every detail of who did what?

        • That’s a great idea. That wouldn’t spoil a book. A circle with an animal in it could mean plenty of things. It would just mean tha5 there’s co tent that could trigger strong reactions.
          I certainly agree about the level of description. It’s one instance where I prefer tell and not show. If they had just mentioned that they went hunting and are animal stew, I wouldn’t have been so upset.
          Lizzy mentioned a similar thing in a Stef Pennybook. I’m no prude either but when it’s too descriptive, it becomes gratuitous, in my opinion and I don’t get it. I’ll have t9 read your review soon.

  11. I can see your dilemma but although it would be useful if we were to know if a book or film contained scenes that we would find distasteful the idea of listing these potential trigger points would be too cumbersome. The trigger points themselves would be contentious as some people may want something like homosexuality listed whilst others will find it offensive for it to be included as a warning, etc.

    As I get older I find myself not being able to read or watch torture scenes. But I think it’s down to the reader to either skip those parts they don’t like or abandon the book/film entirely.

    • I had similar thoughts but I think we should never take all the sensibilities into consideration. It would be enough to point out violence and, maybe explicit or rather pornographic sex scenes. The rest enters censorship territory.
      Of course, o e can always skip certain passages but often you have to read some of i5 before you can do that.m
      It’s a complex topic.

      • I just don’t think it would be that useful, after all, you’re saying it wasn’t the violence against the women that was the main problem but the trapping and skinning of the dead animals. It’s debatable whether that would be included in the warning. If there is a separate one for this then I can’t see why there then wouldn’t be claims for a large number of other warnings.

        You would still have the old problem with books that were published before the warnings were brought in. I think the best way for these kind of concerns would be for readers to set up some sort of database to warn other readers then they could contain more information than could be included in a trigger warning.

        • Yes, you’re very right, that’s why I wrote in the post that a trigger warning, in this case would be super tricky. There are a few bloggers who feel like I do and we do exactly that – warn each other. That was, among other things, the reason for writing about this. The idea of the database is really good.

  12. Caroline, Thank you for broaching this subject in such a thoughtful manner. Like you, I find it to be an impossibility to read (or especially watch) any acts of violence against animals.

    As a writer and editor, I understand it may be necessary to include such scenes in order to be true to the characters’ experiences. As a reader (or viewer), I choose not to engage with such graphic depictions that will never leave my mind. It is a trigger for me in the way you’ve described.

    That said, I agree that a content warning could lead authors and booksellers down a slippery slope to a form of censorship. And people are triggered by different descriptions. It would be difficult to include warnings for every disposition. I would support including a more detailed description of the story events on the book jacket or website. if it is possible.

    So on a personal note, I will either skip sections of a story that are triggers or stop reading that book.

    • I thought you’d feel the same. I hope, if you see my Twitter feed at times, it doesn’t give you nightmares. I sometimes retweet PETA tweets and Humane Society and other animal activists. The former have given me nightmares but Unfortunately also opened my eyes. And I know some people need to see certain things to stop wearing fur. I usually don’t watch their videos. A glimpse is enough. Sorry, this was a bit off-topic.
      I wish I was better at putting aside books. I’m working on it. I knew early on this book wouldn’t be good for me. When I read about cruelty against animals or sad and horrible things that happen to them it stays in my mind even longer.
      The slippery slope to censorship is a risk that’s why trigger warnings may not be the way to go.

      • I wholeheartedly agree, Caroline! I know we are on the same wavelength. Once the image gets into my mind, I can’t “unsee” it, if that makes sense. I may even have sleepless nights. I was thinking about your post more and more, and I wonder if there is room for a rating system on books, similar to how films are rated for content. Not that the plot needs to be revealed, but an “R” rating could mean graphic content. Do you have these rating systems for films?

        • Exactly. You can’t “unsee” it.
          I’m still torn about the ratings and trigger warnings. I honestly don’t remember if we have R rated movies. I think we just have age restrictions. A lot that is rated in the US, like sex scenes and such aren’t considered that problematic here. But I’m really not sure how it’s done for violence. The case of this book and other books that disturbed me is different. It’s not real violence per se it just turns into horrible suffering because that’s what happens when you hunt and especially with traps. People who eat meat might be far less bothered by a book like this.
          It remains a difficult topic but from now on,I’ll try to stop reading.

  13. It’s a little bit like the film ratings – I saw most of them at a wildly inappropriate age and perhaps that’s why I remember some of them so well. It is a conundrum though. I suppose the only way to prepare for it is to be prepared for anything in theory anywhere but also be able to stop if it gets too much. Gratuitous I cannot bear, but sometimes I need to know if I have to wait a while to feel mentally strong before broaching a challenging subject or description.

    • It is like film ratings but more specific, I’d say. In this case it didn’t really matter that it was t gratuitous, I found hard to read all the same. And still I couldn’t stop. I need to take better care of myself as it’s just not worth finishing something and then be upset like this. But with other topics, like you, sometimes I can take it better than at other times.

  14. I had completely forgotten about this book! Honestly, I had to go back to my blog to remember what I said, because it has not stayed with me. I wrote that it was “one of the strangest and most powerful novels I’ve read this year. Slightly reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale…” But since I had forgotten its existence it apparently was NOT one of the most powerful books I read that year!

    I’m not big on horrific details either, which is probably why I “forgot” the book. I don’t believe in trigger warnings: I just close the book. But people disagree strongly about this, and it’s different for everybody.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion. I’m still not entirely sold on trigger warnings myself. I think, the best way is to warn each other. There are several bloggers who, like me are extremely sensitive to scenes in which animals are harmed or die and we always point out these instances in our reviews,
      I know books like that. I’m so impressed while reading but then they are gone from my memory. I’m afraid this 8ne won’t, especially not after this discussion but I can imagine why you forgot it. It has elements of several other books, like Atwood’s but ultimately it’s not as powerful and the other books just erase this one. If that makes sense.

  15. Very interesting point, Caroline! I don’t really know where I stand on trigger warnings because it’s not something I’ve considered much. Personally, I like reading books that surprise me or even offend me, and I wouldn’t want to be warned about anything. But I do recognise that I’m lucky not to have experienced the kind of trauma that could be reawakened. For many people, this can be a very serious thing. In general, I think reviews and descriptions give a pretty good sense of what’s in the book and what you can avoid, and I agree with you that it’s strange in this case that the animal cruelty wasn’t mentioned. Sorry you had such a bad experience!

    • Thanks Andrew and thanks for your thoughts on this. It wasn’t pleasant but I know people who wouldn’t consider the instances in this book to qualify as animal cruelty. I suppose people who eat meat feel less stressed when reading about hunting and/or animal death in general. That’s why this case is particularly tricky. On the other hand, Lizzy was disturbed by all the other violence in the book and, like me, shocked because the blurb doesn’t forewarn you at all. A “dystopian” (that’s what most readers call it) book doesn’t need to include cruelty and graphic violence. As Lizzy said, when you read a thriller or horror, you expect it, not necessarily in literary fiction though. My know my threshold is low when it comes to animals. But I’ve noticed other instances where graphic violences wasn’t mentioned.

  16. It’s an interesting discussion. In general I don’t agree with trigger warnings, but I do agree that some sense of the content / tone / strength of the material (i.e. very graphic) could be flagged *somewhere* – certainly it would be a legitimate thing to mention in a review. I can understand why on certain topics people do not want to be blind-sided in this way.

    But I also think that as readers we are the most in control of any “consumer” of art or entertainment – no one schedules the book for you, you can skip, read backwards, abandon it, rip it up… I accept that most people don’t *like* abandoning books, even if they go off-piste, but you are still in control of that decision once something crops up that shocks or upsets.

    • It’s so interesting to read about everyone’s opinion.
      I’m so bad at not finishing but but I have skipped graphic parts in the past. It wouldn’t have been easy in this case. I should have put it aside early on.
      I don’t think what bothered me here could have been mentioned in the blurb but I’m still surprised other reviewers didn’t mention it. Not even the violence against the women. Maybe they blocked it.
      Yes, those trigger warnings, it’s complex, given that everyone is sensitive to someth8 g else or different degrees.

  17. I’m sorry you had such a horrible experience reading this. I don’t know about trigger warnings on books. Maybe they could be rated like films, so that if they contain disturbing content, at least people will be aware that they should exercise caution. It’s tricky, though. Maybe you could work on your DNF skills. If you really don’t like a book, just hurl it at the wall and move on to the next one. That works for me. 🙂 xo

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