Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Well Do You Really Know Your Neighbors?

Heres what happened when I started reading Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I opened it up on my Kobo and began. Three hours later I was still at it. I picked it up in the morning, after having dreamt about it, I am sure, and after picking it up several times during the night to read hidden under my covers so as not to wake my husband.

I drank my morning coffee with the book opened beside me. It wasn’t until the very last page that I was aware of the breath I’d been holding. It’s that good. It’s what I’m recommending this week.

What makes it good is the ever escalating suspense, from the carefully controlled first chapter where we meet the couple, Jack and Grace to the horrific ending.

Jack is smart, good looking, a lawyer who specializes in helping abused women. And, oh, he’s never lost a case. How lucky is Grace to be his wife? Grace, to all appearances is the perfect wife, always beautifully turned out. They live a huge and gorgeous home and host lavish dinner parties. Too good to be true. 

It is.

Behind Closed Doors is something I am calling a “psychopath captive prisoner story,” which is just the name I’m giving to this genre. If this genre has a real name, someone please let me know.

I think part of our fascination with these types of stories is that we like to think of ourselves as Macgyvers able to get out of any scrape and situation. I would do it this way. No, I would do it that way. As I read Behind Closed Doors, I wanted to yell at Grace. Why don’t you try this? Wouldn’t that work?

We have read the stories, seen the news about the horrific true tales of children kept in closets for years, of women imprisoned in dungeons to be repeatedly raped. These horrific events make us want to hug onto our children more closely, and keep hold of those we love with tight arms. It’s one of the more horrible of crimes that people seem to be capable of.

And it is also reflected in our fiction.

Room by Emma Donoghue is the story of a mother raising her son within the confines of a room where they are being held captive. 
 It has also been made into a movie.

Do you remember Flowers in the Attic, that YA book from a number of years ago? It was immensely popular with young people, and when my teen daughter brought it home back then, I read it, too. It's about a family of children who are hidden away in the attic by a mother intent on getting the inheritance which is hers only if she doesn’t have children.

There are more in this genre. Stephen King’s Misery is a tale which is not soon forgotten by those who read it.

I even had a "captive prisoner" novel in The King James Murders.

I will close this brief analysis with a look at the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I remember reading this years ago, probably for a school assignment, and it still holds onto its fearfulness. This short story is about a woman suffering from some undiagnosed illness, and whose husband keeps her in a room with yellow wallpaper - which eventually drives her insane. It’s a great psychological suspense tale and you can read it in its entirety here.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite captive-prisoner stories.

In two weeks: On the one year anniversary of I Like It, I take a brief look back.

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