Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

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The violent delights

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a gripping and imaginative reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Set against the backdrop of 1920s Shanghai, this novel offers a fresh take on the timeless tale of star-crossed lovers, infusing it with mystery, fantasy, and historical intrigue. 

Chloe Gong’s debut novel has captured the attention of readers worldwide with its unique setting, complex characters, and compelling plot.

What is the plot of the book?

These Violent Delights transports readers to Shanghai in 1926, a city teetering on the brink of chaos. The city is divided between two rival gangs: the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers. 

At the heart of this tumultuous setting are Juliette Cai, the heir to the Roma Montagov and Scarlet Gang, the heir to the White Flowers. Once childhood lovers, Juliette and Roma are now bitter enemies.

The story begins with a mysterious contagion spreading through the city, causing people to slit  their own throats. This deadly madness threatens to destroy Shanghai, and Juliette and Roma must set aside their enmity to uncover the truth behind the disease and stop it before it’s too late. 

All about Characters

Juliette Cai is a fierce and determined protagonist. Having spent several years in America, she returns to Shanghai with a hardened resolve to prove herself as the rightful heir to the Scarlet Gang. Her strength and complexity make her a captivating character, one who struggles with her loyalty to her family and her lingering feelings for Roma.

Roma Montagov is equally compelling. As the heir to the White Flowers, he is burdened with the expectations of his family while grappling with his past relationship with Juliette. Roma’s internal conflict and desire to protect those he loves add depth to his character, making him more than just a rival to Juliette.

The supporting cast is also richly developed. Characters like Marshall Seo, Benedikt Montagov, and Rosalind Lang provide additional layers to the story, each bringing their own motivations and complexities to the narrative. These characters help to build a vivid and immersive world, making the reader care deeply about their fates.

Setting and Atmosphere

The setting of 1920s Shanghai is one of the novel’s standout features. Chloe Gong masterfully captures the vibrancy and danger of the city, blending historical detail with fantastical elements. 

The backdrop of political tension, opium dens, and the clash of Western and Eastern influences creates a richly textured world that is both exotic and familiar.

The atmosphere of the novel is one of palpable tension and impending doom. The spreading madness adds a layer of horror to the story, heightening the stakes and driving the plot forward. Gong’s descriptive prose brings the city and its inhabitants to life, making the reader feel as if they are walking the streets of Shanghai alongside Juliette and Roma.

Themes of the book

These Violent Delights explores several themes, including love, loyalty, and the impact of colonialism. At its core, the novel is about the struggle between personal desires and familial duty. Juliette and Roma’s relationship embodies this conflict, as they navigate their feelings for each other while trying to uphold their responsibilities to their respective gangs.

The theme of colonialism is woven throughout the story, highlighting the tension between the foreign powers and the native Chinese population. This historical context adds depth to the narrative, showing how external forces shape the lives and decisions of the characters.

The novel also delves into the nature of violence and revenge. The title, drawn from Shakespeare, reflects the destructive cycle of vengeance that consumes the characters and their families. Through Juliette and Roma’s journey, Gong examines whether it is possible to break free from this cycle and forge a new path.

How is it written?

Chloe Gong’s writing style is engaging and immersive. Her use of rich, descriptive language paints a vivid picture of 1920s Shanghai, while her deft handling of action scenes keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Gong balances moments of quiet introspection with intense drama, creating a well-paced narrative that maintains the reader’s interest throughout.

The dialogue is sharp and authentic, capturing the cultural nuances of the time and place. Gong’s ability to blend historical detail with fantasy elements is seamless, making the fantastical aspects of the story feel grounded and believable.

Conclusion

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a remarkable debut that reinvents a classic tale for a new generation. With its compelling characters, richly detailed setting, and intricate plot, the novel offers a fresh and exciting take on the story of Romeo and Juliet. Gong’s exploration of themes like love, loyalty, and the impact of colonialism adds depth to the narrative, making it more than just a simple retelling.

Some Questions

What is These Violent Delights about?

The novel is a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai, focusing on two rival gang heirs who must work together to stop a deadly contagion spreading through the city.

Who are the main characters?

The main characters are Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, the heir to the White Flowers. Both characters are complex and compelling, navigating their past relationship and current enmity.

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