Our Violent Ends
Chloe Gong burst from obscurity in 2020 with a blinding first novel, These Violent Delights, and became a New York Times #1 bestseller. Not bad for a Kiwi girl who was less than 20 at the time. In 2021 she followed up with Our Violent Ends which instantly went back into the position of #1 New York Times Bestsellers list. The difficult sophomore creation proved to be another hit for the young writer, now based in America.
The duology of These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends is a foray into the world of combinations. Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters are Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, both part of the gangland stronghold that ravaged Shanghai in the 1920s. Like Shakespeare’s version, the two star crossed lovers are separated by the blood feud of their day. However, I suspect Leonardo Di Caprio may now be too old to reprise his role in the sure-to-be-coming film version.
Still reeling from the death of high ranking members of Roma’s gang - at the hands of Juliette no less - things take an exponential turn for the worst as a supernatural monster begins to rampage across the city, much like a virus to the already broken metropolis. Roma and Juliette are forced to work together in order to try to understand the motives and stop this ‘thing’ from becoming stronger and taking over. It’s only now, discussing it in a synopsis style, that the supernatural component is so blatantly apparent throughout. So good is the writing that it lulls you into a false sense of reality, and creates a world that is plausible and wonderfully illustrative.
Drawing on her own Asian heritage and celebrating the culture of Shanghai throughout, there is no need to have read the first book of the series, although as with any series it definitely does add some context, and the experience is no less visceral or poignant.
In addition to the intricate world Gong has created in Our Violent Ends it is actually what happens outside the novel itself, and in real life, that is the most remarkable aspect. Clearly in touch with her generation of readers, Gong is very active on the social media channels, and regularly posts in response to questions on the goodreads.com site. Accessibility is her superpower, and something that could easily be fostered in the classroom or on a personal level for avid readers.
A quick search through her own website outlines her expectations to release five books in as many years, so there is no shortage of content from this remarkable writer.
There is always something so exciting about celebrating the success of a New Zealander on the world stage. On this occasion, we are so privileged to see writing - and success from writing - of this level from someone so close to home.
Title: Our Violent Ends
Author: Chloe Gong (lives in New York)
Publisher: Hatchette Aotearoa
Themes: a retelling of Romeo & Juliet
Where in the world is it set? Shanghai
Reviewer: Chris Reed, English teacher, Macleans College, Auckland
How are you recommending this book? Highly Recommended
Opening line: The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.
You can buy this book here