In the 10 months since the initial reports on sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, reverberations and reckonings from the #MeToo movement have cascaded across the country, from Hollywood to Broadway, the arts to academia, journalism to politics.
The drumbeat of accusations has slowed, but the examination of the entrenched culture of abuse and misogyny in our society is not going away.
In fiction, this questioning has meant titles being marketed in two — admittedly — broad categories: individualized abuse stories along the lines of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” and dystopian futures with increased oppression a la Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
These are aging standards, but both still clearly resonate. The American edition of “Lolita” was published 60 years ago this month, earning a savage New York Times review — “dull,” “repulsive” and “disgusting.” Yet the book appears on nearly every list of the greatest novels of all time. “The Handmaid’s Tale” was first published in 1985, but the success of Hulu’s Emmy-winning show starring Elisabeth Moss has turned the title into a buzzword in the current political climate.
Their influence is apparent in four new novels — two “Lolita”-ish and two “Handmaid’s”-esque — by women:
In the vein of ‘Lolita’:
By Sofka Zinovieff
Daphne, now 50, reevaluates the yearslong relationship she had with composer Ralph Boyd that began when she was 12 years old and he was 30. Encour-aged by her child- hood friend Jane, Daphne goes from seeing the relationship as “wonderful in its way” to abusive. Told from all three perspectives, Zinovieff’s novel offers an often complex take on reckoning with the past.
By Kate Walbert
A teacher, referred to as Master Aikens, preys on 15-year-old Jo, who is vulnerable after causing an accident that kills her best friend. Written from the 30-year-old Jo’s point-of-view, this brief but bold book lays bare the darkness of abuse.
In the vein of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’:
By Christina Dalcher
A conservative Christian regime has taken power, decreeing that women can’t work and are only allowed to speak 100 words per day. If they go over, they are shocked. Dalcher reportedly wrote the book in two months, which shows at times, but the symbolic questions she asks are unfortunately all too relevant today.
‘The Water Cure’
By Sophie Mackintosh
Longlisted for the Man Booker prize, “The Water Cure” is not out in the U.S. until January 2019 — but the wait will be worth it. The potent, almost allegorical tale starts strangely dreamlike, with sisters Grace, Lia and Sky isolated, living with just their parents, King and Mother. Then King disappears and three men wash ashore and the story slowly takes a horrifying turn.