The Pornography of Fear

My scalp itched as I read Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. In part this was because I’ve been suffering from shingles – a nasty infection which I thought only old ladies with tea cosy hats suffered from. But only in part. This is a thoroughly unpleasant book and I’m actually quite taken aback by the strong feelings it’s evoked in me. Behind Closed Doors is about a seemingly perfect married couple, Jack and Grace. In fact he is a psychopath who keeps her prisoner within their opulent and highly secure home. The reason he’s able to do this is because Grace’s sister, Millie, has Down’s Syndrome and is at boarding school: Grace being allowed to see her is dependant upon her, Grace’s, obedience to Jack. However, Jack’s monstrous behaviour towards Grace ( amongst other things he starves her and forces her to paint portraits of abused women ) is actually all geared towards him eventually getting hold of Millie and torturing her.

Although the subject matter is, to say the least, unsavoury it’s not that I object to. As far as I’m concerned, any material is fair game for fiction. Yes, it’s badly written ( there’s much repetition and a complete absence of subtlety. Predictably, Jack is a successful lawyer who deals with domestic abuse victims) which is annoying but, again, this happens in a lot of books and if people aren’t bothered by that ( as was the case with Fifty Shades ) then so be it.

Indeed, in many ways I felt this book should have made me laugh. The number of times Grace tries to escape and is foiled by the devilish Jack ( who really should have a forked tail and sport a pair of small red horns) is ludicrous. One possibility is that my sense of humour has flaked away along with half my forehead* but, even if it has, this book is not intended to be funny. Far from it. Instead, it’s obviously meant to tap into a woman’s worst nightmare ( I’m sure it’s probably the same for men but I can only speak on behalf of my own gender ) : that of being powerless to protect one’s vulnerable loved ones ( often children, though in this case a sibling) against an external threat. When that loved one is disabled and the threat is of physical and mental degradation it takes a far, far better writer than B.A. Paris to create from that scenario something redemptive for the reader.

* Uninteresting medical fact: shingles only affects half one’s head.


Leave a comment

Your comment