September 26, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

In Which, Chloe Gong’s Debut These Violent Delights, Leaves Me Without Phonemes

These Violent Delights By Chloe Gong 

I’m just going to say this upfront. Chloe Gong’s debut, These Violent Delights, has left me without words syllables. Nope. Chloe Gong’s debut, These Violent Delights, has left me without phonemes. A phoneme (basically) is the smallest part of any given language (Cat- /c/ opposed to Mat- /m/). I have no phonemes. And so, I’m giving you the summary. I only do if I’m dropping a book in the great salt lake, or I’m going to emotional flail so badly that I fear you will have no clue what the hell the book is about. I should have put the summary of Mara Fitzgerald’s Beyond the Ruby Veil in that review, now that I think about it. That will be corrected. Also, I think These Violent Delights and Beyond the Ruby Veil will forever be connected in my head, although I don’t know why.

Two more quick things:

  1. Check out my interview with Chloe Gong, which is absolutely, insanely incredible!
  2. I don’t know if this is Chloe Gong’s plan, but if she were to reimagine all Shakespeare’s work, I’d buy every single thing she writes EVER.
    • PS Please do Hamlet
    • Oh, and completely not Shakespeare but if you have any interest in Oedipus… OMG. Ok. I’m done trying to tell Ms. Gong what to do with her writing. 

These Violent Delights By Chloe Gong Summary

This heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it, all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

OK. I feel better now that you have a summary. I can go off the handles and everyone has this to refer back to. <deep breath>

These Violent Delights By Chloe Gong- Review

Here we go, kids.

I really just want to:

and stop there because that’s really all you need to know, but I’ll explode if I stop the review there. And I feel like I just owe Chloe Gong’s debut more.

First of all, I knew from the first time I heard about These Violent Delights that I would love it. I didn’t doubt it. I mean that isn’t full proof. I’ve been disappointed, even gutted by books that I thought I would like. But I just knew this was going to go well. I featured it in a Top 5 Saturday Books by debut authors to look out for and that drew so much interest in These Violent Delights that, that Wednesday I featured in a Can’t Wait Wednesday post, and then Book Titles That Could Be Band Names– because, come on. These Violent Delights could SO be a band name.

My point is that Chloe Gong had that to live up to and These Violent Delights did live up to all that hype. But then it did something even more.

Taking out the trash

I was complete trash for These Violent Delights. The way I have become complete trash for Adult Psychological Thrillers? Yes. That kind of trash. Chloe Gong took me to the curb and made me trash for These Violent Delights. Now that you know the severity of this situation, let’s break down why.

Scarlett Gang and The White Flowers

Every character in These Violent Delights have a purpose, a personality, and a voice. There was something very intentional in how their individual flaws were at once infuriating to each other and yet, also, intrinsic to their unbreakable bonds. Within that, there were distinctive dynamics between each relationship.

For instance, Juliette and Kathleen had a much different interpersonal connection than Kathleen and Rosalind. And, yet again, when the three are together, that dynamic shifts yet again. This is neither haphazard nor confusing. In the context of different plot points, it makes perfect sense. It creates deeper levels of character complexity, relationship history, and at times tension. There are conflicts at times in the story, when they need each other most, and then times when there is still so much sympathy for insecurities that plague all of them.

One of the foundations of this is Juliette’s family history. There are multiple family’s that are living in the Cai household and it often causes discomfort. Utilizing that history is not something Chloe Gong brings up and then just throws away. It is an essential piece of the characters, decisions, and interactions throughout the book. I also think it will have consequences to come. But that is just my opinion.

The same is true of Benedikt, Marshall, and Roma. Individually there is much that plagues each of them. Depending on which two are together, you see different pieces of their personality come out, intermingle, and play-off each other in different ways. And then, when the whole comes together, it changes again.

These Violent Delights By Chloe Gong Review

Thank you to Simon Teen and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Yes. I’m being vague. I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers. On that note, other characters intermix as the book progresses. A few of them are extremely important and just as well written. However, their roles don’t become clear until much later in These Violent Delights. To talk about them would be a disservice to those who haven’t read it. Just know that not one character suffers from being sidelined or surface only.

But I’m trying to give an overall picture of what Chloe Gong has done with these characters. They are all well-written with amazing dynamics. Yet, this is another added level where you have an individual distinction and group interplay. Then within each group, you still have additional personality shifts, depending on how they pair off.

Juliette and Roma

Chloe Gong outdid herself with this star-crossed pair. In my head, I kept waiting for certain pieces to fall into place, and for the plot to follow a certain direct line, based on Romeo and Juliet. These Violent Delights gives so much more than what I thought I wanted.

Once upon a time, Roma and Juliette had come up with a list of rules that, if followed, would have made the city something tolerable. It woldn’t make Shanghai kind, only salvageable, because that was the best they could do. Gangsters should only kill other gangsters. The only fair targets were those who chose the life they led, while, Juliette later realized, included the common workers… Fight dirty but fight bravely. Do not fight those who cannot understand what it means to fight.

When they were younger, they had an idea and a love for each other. They could become leaders of their respective gangs and change things. Roma and Juliette weren’t naive. They couldn’t make it perfect but they could make it better. But things change. Circumstances change and deeds are done, without them knowing the reasons why. Now, they are older and reconciling with who they were and who they are now. Juliette, having just returned from being sent to America. Roma trying to prove that he can lead the White Flowers. Neither who they were. Neither quite sure who they are. Both determined to be over the other.

Trying to merge those different people while being forced to work together against a sudden plague, one that is killing people from both their gangs, plus all citizens of Shanghai? It is inconvenient at best and maddening at worst. Yet there they are, thrown together.

The politics. A plague. And all the emotions.


Michael Che

Chloe Gong CAN WRITE

This is going to be short otherwise I’m just going to quote the entire book or spoil the whole thing. But. I’m going to say something and then I’m going to quote something. I’m going to say that there are books written well enough that you can picture the setting in your head. The world-build is well done, etc. Then there is Chloe Gong. It isn’t just that you can picture scenes in your mind. It is that you have scenes running in your head down to the pacing of the action. Here is the example I’m going to give you from These Violent Delights:

“Roma,” she said, her voice rising. “He’s got a gun.”

“Every foreigner in this city has a gun-”

“He’s pointing it at us,” Juliette cut in. “He just drew it from behind his newspaper.”

Tense silence fell between the two as they desperately thought through their options. Around them, Shanghai continued moving, alive and vibrant and unbothered…

“Untie your coat and embrace me,” Roma said…”Do it, so I can shoot him…”

They had both grown tall and grown thorns.

“Lean closer,” Roma instructed She felt his arm moving, retrieving his pistol behind the cover of her coat as it billowed on either side of them in the breeze.

“Don’t miss,” Juliette whispered.

“I never do.”

bang sounded from her core. Juliette immediately whirled around to catch the British tail collapsing where he stood, a bright red spot blooming on his coat chest. There was a smoking hole in Juliette’s coat, but she barely noticed. Her mind was on the screams resounding around her as they sought the source of the sound, on the flurry of movement that had started atop the cobblestones.

From the realization of the gun being pointed at them, to their minds slowing down completely while Shanghai keeps moving around them. Then the slow-motion gunshot from Roma, to the frantic explosion of people panicking around them, once Roma shoots. Everything is palpable. Everything is written with such precision that you are engulfed in the emotion, action, and pace of the scene. And I cut a bit out because I didn’t want to quote 1.5 pages of the book. So, keep that in mind.

Also- disturbing, unnerving, sinister, dark- it is called These Violent Delights for a reason and Chloe Gong isn’t fucking around. IT IS BRILLIANT.

These Violent Delights By Chloe Gong- Wrap-Up/Final Thoughts

  1. There is another whole level to this book that Chloe Gong will talk about in her interview. It isn’t my lane to talk about the history of Shanghai and colonization. I can speak to the writing structure and how incredibly it is threaded throughout the story. I have knowledge of the time but that doesn’t mean I have knowledge or understanding of the humanity of it. That is why it isn’t in my review. I will leave that for the interview.
  2. The last 20% of These Violent Delights kept me nauseous. I wanted to throw-up. The cliffhanger still has me reeling and now I have to wait for the next book.

I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to These Violent Delights. Here are a few more interviews that have come out, that you might want to check out:

Heavenly Bibliophile

Marianna’s Corner

Your Words My Ink

Mel To The Any

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