Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Most Shocking Scene in a Novel (Spoilers)





Still reading the Updike bio, I am up to his writing of RABBIT RUN, which contains the 17 page scene where Rabbit's wife, Janice, drowns their baby unintentionally. I doubt any scene has ever shocked me more. There are certain things you expect in a crime novel but not in a book like this one.

What novel or scene in one shocked you the most?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's been so long since I read the Rabbit book I don't remember my reaction to that scene. There were three scenes in three different John Harvey/Charlie Resnick books that shocked me at the time, one involving a sexual assault and two involving the deaths of series regulars, that come to mind. I won't mention the books or characters.

I'll see if I can think of others. I know there was one recently where I was really surprised where the author went.


Jeff M.

George said...

THE STORY OF O.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I was taken aback by the brutal training of German deserters by the SS/Gestapo during WWII in ‘The Legion of the Damned’ by Danish writer Sven Hassel. I was also surprised that anyone, including the protagonist, even survived to fight on the Russian front. I don't know how much of the graphic account is exaggerated. If you treat your own kind like this, what hope is there for outsiders?

pattinase (abbott) said...

As we found out, Prashant!

Margot Kinberg said...

The very end of Wendy James' The Mistake. I had the feeling it might be coming, but...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I could fill my shelves with books you recommend, Margot.
Never had the nerve to read O, George.

Deb said...

Although I've been surprised many times, especially in murder-mysteries where intriguing twists are often an expectation (my favorite being in Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying), being shocked is a different and, to me, far more ambiguous reaction when reading. Two times I was shocked: In John Fowles's The Collector when the kidnapper allows his victim to die rather than get her treatment for bronchitis; and Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers (a book I didn't like very much) where a very disturbed man murders another in exchange for keeping the victim's wife alive.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, shocked is different than surprised, which happens often. I don't mean shocked at the author's audacity--I think the shocking scene has to be earned. I have read nearly all McEwan but having seen the movie THE COMFORT, I have avoided the novel. It just was too scary for my taste. And boy, THE COLLECTOR was shocking indeed. One never can guess at the mind of a psychopath I guess.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never been able to read Updike too much. Not my kind of story.

Dave Zeltserman said...

The ending of Something Happened by Joseph Heller

pattinase (abbott) said...

Uh, oh, Dave. I don't remember it. Will have to seek it out. I mean I remember the book but not the ending.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, Stewart O'Nan had a shocker.

Gerard said...

I'm drawing a blank. I did read a story by McEwan in '94 or '95 when I was in grad school that revealed the protagonist was a chimp.

I recall being shocked at the reveal and afterwards I realized I should not have been.

I went on a short McEwan kick at that time after reading something about him in the TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT. Since then I've never gotten around to reading the big hits that came out after that time. Not even the film versions. I am waaay further behind on my reading then I realized.

John said...

The final sentence in PICK-UP by Charles Willeford. Most readers when they come to it will have the entire novel's events change instantly.

Cap'n Bob said...

The end of Nightmare Alley.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, without a doubt, John. I didn't see it coming at all. I am not sure if I have seen NIGHTMARE ALLEY. So many things to read, so little time.

Cap'n Bob said...

The movie version of Nightmare Alley was a cop out. Read the book.

Anonymous said...

I read NIGHTMARE ALLEY last year and it holds up surprisingly well.


Jeff M.

Al Tucher said...

I knew there was something I couldn't quite dredge up, and Dave nailed it: the end of SOMETHING HAPPENED, by Joseph Heller.

Yvette said...

There is a scene in Connie Willis' book PASSAGE which defines shock - at least as far as I'm concerned.

I've never experienced anything like it. It happens about midway through and is totally, COMPLETELY, unexpected.

I threw the book down and almost, ALMOST refused to go back. But boy am I glad I did. A phenomenal book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You guys are adding to my list. Wow!

Anders E said...

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN by John Ajvide Lindqvist has its fair share. Especially the guy locked in the basement together with something undead which is so physically damaged it can't defend itself but then again can't be killed. Not in the movie, understandably.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ooh, and I had that book and gave it away. Shucks!