“All they were – all they had ever been – was a pair of sunflowers who each believed the other was the sun”
Micah Nemerever’s debut novel THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS is a brutal dive into the complex and toxic relationship of two young men in 1970s Pittsburg. First meeting in their freshman ethics class, Paul is immediately drawn to Julian like a moth to a flame. Timid and insecure Paul views the charismatic Julian as his sole intellectual equal. As their intimacy deepens, Paul and Julian become harmfully co-dependent and magnify each other’s worst insecurities, desires, and beliefs. Paul’s fear of loosing Julian grows so consuming that to prove their devotion to each other they are driven to an act of irrevocable violence.
THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS is a mesmerizing read. Paul and Julian’s physiologically abusive and destructive relationship is difficult to be immersed in yet like a car wreck I could not look away. Though the book starts with a bang – the intense prologue is brilliant –Nemerever’s skill at depicting the slow escalation of Paul and Julian’s relationship adds tension and dread to the story.
As characters, I found Paul and Julian unlikable but riveting. Both are manipulative and deeply damaged individuals who are portrayed with depth and given rich histories that add to the complexity of their characters. The two are constantly having philosophical conversations, which not only highlights the fact that they believe they are smarter than everyone else but also adds subtext to their characters and creates their “us verses them” mentality. Though important to the story, the cerebral banter was quite dense and required close reading for me.
THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS is a brutal slow burn. I applaud Nemerever for the almost excruciating pace of the book that created such a sense of dread and unease from start to finish. I mean come on, the last sentence of the book! WOW! Though undoubtedly a thriller, THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS is also a story of first love that explores social and economic class, family trauma, and homophobia in the 1970s. That said, I can’t say that this was an enjoyable read. The levels of emotional abuse and cruelty between Paul and Julian made this an agonizing though impressive debut novel.
** Harper provided the book for honest review.
- Title: These Violent Delights
- Author: Micah Nemerever
- Published: September 15, 2020 (Harper)
- Genre: LGBT, Thriller
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * 1/2