When I picked up Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle, I knew it was going to be gripping and probably a surreal read. However, what I didn’t know was that it would leave me dumbfounded, contemplating about how desperation could make us do things we couldn’t even imagine of doing.
Fourteen year old Trixie, confused and overwhelmed with the reality of her family falling apart, accuses her high school boyfriend, who recently broke up with her of raping her after a party. Picoult carefully tip-toes around the issue of the blurred lines between consensual sex between two drunk teenagers and rape and deals with it with all the urgency and delicacy that it demands. She puts before us the characters of Daniel, Trixie’s father who has a history of aggressive behaviour. A man, who is fiercely in love with his family but is somehow unwilling to accept the reality of the fact that her daughter may have ruined an innocent boy’s life. A significant part of the book revolves around the idea of parents having to face the horrors of dealing with your own child’s uncertainty. The book involves a lot of second guessing, and the narrators are not as reliable, so the reader is left to figure out a lot of things on his own. Trixie’s mother, Laura has a bit of her own part in the plot. Initially the reader is forced to create a not so pleasant image of a woman who is cheating not only on her husband but also on her family. But as the plot thickens we see a woman driven by her fierce love for her daughter and the sheer need to protect her.
Another interesting segment in the book is the inclusion of Daniel’s comic strip before every few chapters. It reflects Daniel’s inner dilemmas and a deeper insight into a man’s mind who is trying hard to protect his daughter and his own self from his monstrous past. However what I found a bit odd and unsettling was the way Daniel and Laura dealt with , (for the most part they were unaware of) their daughter’s history of self harm. Despite the issues they were dealing with as a couple it seems quite unrealistic to be unaware of your daughter’s attempt at suicide. Or this could be just interpreted as a shortcoming most parents suffer with while dealing with vulnerable teenagers, especially in dysfunctional families.
The book also involves a hidden message, in the comic, which concludes the whole story, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit, for what each man wishes that he also believes to be true” – DEMOSTHENES
Picoult uses various techniques in the book to keep the reader on the edge and one of those techniques is the way that she has tied all the themes of the book to Dante’s Inferno. While Trixie’s mother Laura teaches about Dante at college, her husband uses the same as a plot for his comic. Dante’s idea of hell included just nine circles, but the author skilfully uses the phrase “The Tenth Circle” as the title to draw our attention towards the uncharted territory that even Dante’s imagination didn’t venture in. The book is packed with beautiful metaphors and is written in a very easy language. The plot is carefully constructed, with a well defined timeline.However there are not so graphic scenes about rape and suicide, which add to the intensity of the plot but may act as a trigger for few.
I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5, as the book could’ve been a bit more concise than it was. Picoult is a gifted writer with a knack for dealing with sensitive issues with utmost care. Her characters are indeed an honest reflection of the dark sides all humans harbour. Her plot twists, unexpected endings make her books all the more intriguing. This is a book worth spending your nights with. Also you’re allowed to shed a tear or two!