"Bully" by Sara Aurorae
Exceptionally well written literary fiction, with a very important, highly topical undertone, that of misogynistic, toxic masculinity. I don’t know how much of Sara’s book is semi-biographical – the lead character of Bully is called Sarah – so I’ll tread very carefully with this review.
This is by no means a light-hearted read – indeed, it is absolutely intense – but it is superbly gripping in a way I haven’t read for quite some time; the author has done a tremendous job. In it, Sarah is unfortunate enough to cross paths with a genuine psychopath – not the slasher-hiding-in-the-house kind, but the more subtle type; the sadistically menacing, narcissistic bully, who casually terrorizes her without actually doing anything; it is all implied and threatened, without being explicitly stated. The mere fact that Kieran doesn’t wield a knife, but rather a sharp tongue, makes it all the more haunting, in that we know people like this in our very own lives, albeit at a distance and, like nervous dogs, we instinctively know to keep our distance from – for, once in, they are very difficult to get out. Sarah learns this the hard way, to her profound misfortune. The author then delivers an outstanding narrative as Sarah internally crumbles, and we experience her mental breakdown in vivid detail.
There is a lot of metaphor and allegory in this book, some of which, perhaps, I would say was not entirely developed. There were times when I felt Sarah was a bit of a glutton for punishment (and here is where I tread on eggshells; I in no way condone any misogyny or intimidation, in any form), in that she continues to try appeasing her abuser – though I fully acknowledge this is not an easy cycle to break when you are literally terrified. The bigger issue for me was that later in the book I wasn’t really getting the feel of just how deeply Kieran was intimidating her, and felt there was, to put it bluntly, vacancy for much more detailed threat; the effect of this was that there were occasions when it felt that perhaps Sarah was applying his behaviour – which was despicable, it has to be said, and intentionally threatening, certainly – to a hatred of misogyny which was already perpetual for her. In other words, were there times when she may have been feeding her own anxiety? In the second half of the book, certainly, the prose becomes very internal, and focuses more on her mental suffering than any escalation on the part of her abuser.
That said, I suggest no critique of this excellent book. If there is a biographical element, then I feel genuine sorrow and regret for a very brave writer. The world she constructs is absolutely not in her mind, but very real, but to meet someone like Kieran, I acknowledge, is incredibly dark. It is an important book, and should be read by men more than women – and certainly uncouth, intimidating and misogynistic ones, as well as the cowardly alpha-impressionable – if just to show them how threatening they can be, and that psychopathy, sociopathy, whatever you want to call it, is nothing to be proud of, but rather to be ashamed of. Well done to Sara for calling it out.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: sara-aurorae literary-fiction narrative misogyny bullying toxic-masculinity social-issue drama