30 Sep Book review: A Walk at Midnight by Alex van Tonder
A Walk at Midnight by local author Alex van Tonder sheds the spotlight on abuse and sexual assault against women. It’s brilliantly written and an important book to put on your reading or book club list.
A Walk at Midnight is a fantastic narrative of what an infinite number of women go through daily. It’s about abuse against women; about powerful men getting away with abusing and sexually assaulting women, purely because they can afford fancy lawyers and PR consultants to sweep things under the carpet and silence these women’s voices. It’s about our broken society.
It’s beautifully and brutally articulated in this book and wrapped in the story of Jane Ronson and finding out who murdered her husband. Smart, independent, slightly off-centre Jane, who was told her entire life to change who she was and to shrink the dreams that she had for her life. In addition to watching her mother’s abuse by her father, being raped at 19 by a “boy with kind blue eyes” at a university party when she was drunk, changed her life forever. Jane goes on to marry a man that her parents would approve of, became the dutiful wife of a powerful man and the perfect mother to their two children. But, behind closed doors she was repeatedly beaten into being someone her husband wanted her to be, her independence, personality and voice silenced and taken away. There’s a couple of sentences in the book that stood out for me, the below in particular.
“I think of how many times I have died for the man in the wooden box to live and the words I have used to make it okay. I want to tell everyone not to cry. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Trash to trash.”
Jane’s story is not uncommon nor is it fiction
A Walk at Midnight is an uncomfortable read at times that made me think of myself and my female friends. Every single one of us has a story in our past of either being sexually assaulted or being physically, mentally or verbally abused by a boyfriend, boss or parent. My generation of women didn’t talk about these things, we were taught to keep it in, push it away and hide it in the darkest corners of our minds to never think of or speak of. When we were sexually assaulted at parties, we didn’t see it as that, because surely it was our fault for drinking. When boyfriends were passive aggressive, snapped at us, or sulked, it was our fault because we shouldn’t have said or done something that we knew would set them off. It was never the man’s fault, nor would they take responsibility for their actions. We would smile and pretend everything was great, hiding behind masks. The time for pretense and protecting our perpetrators is over.
I was in a relationship with a man who would sulk when he didn’t get his way, who would, in subtle ways, deter me from going after my dreams, would make fun of things I loved doing and sometimes just made me feel silly for liking and doing certain things. I bit my tongue so many times or didn’t go after something I wanted, because I knew he wouldn’t approve or would make a snarky remark or would get pissy – for lack of a better word. It was worse when he was drunk. Once, he even told me that I emasculated him. I shrunk myself so that I wouldn’t dull his shine or take up more space than him. I never saw this when I was in it, but it was a pretty oppressive relationship. Thankfully, we haven’t been together for a long time.
I am happy to report that the man who I am proud to call my life partner, is the kindest, most amazing human being. Not just to me, but to everyone in his life. He’s my biggest cheerleader, always encouraging me to dream big and go after what I want. A supportive partner that shines with you makes the world of difference.
We’re making progress…
…however, as women and as a society. It’s become a lot more normalised for women to speak about their trauma and abuse than it’s ever been. This means that perpetrators have less places to hide. Unfortunately, even though the spotlight is on abuse and femicide at the moment, there’s still very little done to the perpetrators and to stop these crimes being committed.
It is my hope that many more books will be written on the subject, that more women speak out about their traumas and abuse and that offenders think twice before laying a hand on women.
A Walk at Midnight is an important must-read for men and women. Buy it online today.