I was going to write a long post about Purge, by Sofi Oksanen, but my right hand is of monstrous size and unwieldiness after a mosquito bit it (back, palm and wrist). Apparently this immune-system overreaction is quite common if you were not exposed to mosquito bites as a child. All that prep with the midgies proved to be for naught, alas.
I was going to talk about where to place the line between exposing a horrible facet of humanity (which in Purge concerns sex trafficking, the warping of the morals of normal people in the face of war and oppression) and exploiting it for entertainment. It’s difficult on some occasions to point to a moment in a novel where you can say, “here, this is the moment where the book stops telling us something vital, and starts to be dishonest by making it explicit only to shock, and even make us collaborators in the violence”.
Was this latter sensation deliberately triggered by Oksanen? Again, hard to say. I felt it, at any rate. Perhaps because one of the limits of the thriller genre is that it wants to thrill you. But sometimes an act is so horrid that a more careful, elusive handling is needed, in order to truly move a reader to empathy. A quiet speaking around the horror. But ach, the shadow of Victorian pearl-clutching! More unsteady lines to dance along. Perhaps trespassing between the two states is necessary, vital, and I should go away and think of examples in literature where this has been done with verve and acuity.
But anyway, my giant hand needs to lounge in a bowl of iced water. Have a look at this article, which, though problematical (ignoring the tremendous number of male victims of the US-Mexico drug wars/war on drugs lessens the strength of their argument, I feel, among other things) speaks more on the responsibilities we have when we seek to represent the horrors of the real world in our fictions: http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article04281101.aspx