Secrets, romance and intrigue, Zoe Solomon
These Violent Delights
Hodder & Stoughton
April 07, 2021
In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens…
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is the author’s debut novel and a modern take on William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, centering on heirs of two rival gangs who had a past relationship when they were fourteen but betrayed one another through revengeful acts of violence.
Juliette, one of the two main characters, is sent away to America by her parents. The novel is set in Shanghai in the 1920s, four years after Juliette is sent away, and follows her return to Shanghai at the age of eighteen. Since then her feelings for Roma, the other main character, have dispersed and she is full of hatred for the rival gang, The White Flowers.
Not long after she returns to Shanghai a mysterious disease floods the city. This bizarre illness causes people to drop to the floor and tear out their throats. Roma and Juliette at first think nothing of it and continue on with their separate lives; Juliette, as the heir of The Scarlet Gang and Roma as the heir of the White Flower Gang. Chaos continues to erupt throughout the city and as the disease takes hold of Shanghai, it also takes hold of Scarlet and White Flower gangsters. As the gangs’ numbers start to decrease, both gangs have to decide if they will collaborate with one another to find the cure. After a violent meeting the decision is made not to collaborate. The two gangs decide that their rivalry is more important than the lives of their people so they decide they will not work together. During the meeting though, Roma’s sister gets the disease and so Roma pleads with Juliette to try and help him find a cure.
Roma and Juliette have to help one another in secret, revealing more of their past relationship and the feelings they have for one another. Gong slowly reveals this information by switching between Roma and Juliette’s perspectives. There are several main characters and plots hidden inside the novel. However, towards the end of the novel, Tyler, Juliette’s evil cousin, finds out that Juliette is the betrayer and he tells her to kill someone from the White Flower Gang that she has befriended to prove her loyalty. This chapter is a major one because it’s filled with tons of plot twists.
Another major plot is related to a merchant, who Juliette meets at the start of the novel. The reader is led to believe that the merchant is unimportant, and that the meeting is just to set up Juliette’s role in the novel. However, later on in the novel you find out that the merchant becomes very important, but if I were to tell you why it would ruin the novel.
I absolutely loved These Violent Delights. It was such an amazing novel filled with everything I look for: romance, intrigue, drama and lots of twists and turns. Chloe Gong certainly knows how to write and she hasn’t fallen short here. Her writing is full of sarcastic humour and clever sentences that hook the reader. It was also a very descriptive piece. There is absolutely nothing I would change about this novel as I loved every single bit of it and can totally understand why it’s a New York Times bestselling novel.
This book gave me a really good understanding of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet without being bored by iambic pentameter. I now know the basics of the plot, but with more action and understanding in the words. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know the classic play in an easier way or who just wants a really good read. This book would be suitable to anyone from the age of thirteen upwards.
I know I’m going to be the first to run out and grab her sequel when it’s out on the shelves!
– Zoe is 14 years old and a student at Woodford House, Havelock North