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3.7 out of 5 stars27
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 11 December 2010
Dirty Weekend, an account of 48 hours of violence against one woman, and her retributions, is by turns bizarre, poignant, powerful and empathetic.

This is strong, provocative fiction whose style is reminiscent of the writers Gordon Lish (e.g., Peru: A Novel, Dear Mr. Capote) early Jenny Diski (e.g., Nothing Natural) and Andrea Dworkin (Mercy, Ice and Fire). It has a raw honesty in its portrayal of the chameleon forms of violence perpetrated against women.

The story of Bella has the tone of a sinister fable or parable by the likes of Angela Carter. In the opening pages, she has already been threatened with sexual violence by a man who lives opposite her. He promises to pour acid on her skin. But then 'Fate found Bella one night ... and whispered in her ear. And when she woke up, she knew she'd had enough'. It is from this point that she is empowered; no longer wishing to remain persecuted and victimised by the ignorance and violence so common in so many men. She decides, with the help of a mystic, that - since men seem only to view her as a victim - she is unable to at least act even as a bystander and avoid their glare, so concludes that she has no other choice than to take action.

In a series of explicitly and clinically described episodes, Bella enacts her ideas of retribution upon one violent man after another. If these extreme scenes are powerful, it is because of the brutal honesty in the evocation of Bella's pain and outrage, and the attitudes of the men that only wish to threaten and oppress any iota of self-regard that she may have.

It is an uncompromising novel, working as it does within the ugly, hypocritical shadows that our supposedly moral society casts. Occasionally cliches do spill over the overall quality of the writing, yet Zahavi's strength - to be celebrated, and foolish, if not impossible, to deny - is in her fluidity and razor-blade precision to evoke a dark vision; a sinister fable-like version of feminist understanding and empowerment.

Highly recommended.
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on 17 May 2001
Although disturbing and violent in parts, this book is also very entertaining and strangely compelling. It is girl-power with a difference and makes for an uncomfortable read (especially if you're a bloke!) The author weaves a web of intrigue and black humour to leave the reader confused about how they should be feeling.
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on 25 June 2013
This book definitely is not for everyone, but I found it a brilliant portrayal of the thread of dark humanity.

The author's sublime method of hard-driving expression is written with an amazingly sensual cadence---the effective, modified repetition becomes almost a drumbeat.

We envision Bella as a fragile worm turning---in this case into a vigilante against men's abuse of powerless women.

Describing a philosophy of unpleasant sex, the book is best avoided by the prudish.

Admittedly there were several portrayals of brutality that turned my stomach, but I always rooted for Bella to triumph. The reader experiences an emotional roller coaster that exposes fear and horror.

The introduction of the Persian philosopher Nimrod was an inspired excursion into wisecracking, crackling repartee as he gives Bella "the key."

Ms. Zahavi presents a fascinating analysis of damaged goods as she transforms Bella into an empowered soul. Our victim-cum-heroine strikes back as she encompasses the seduction of violence and gains a "[n]ew perspective on her own life."

Take a walk on the (very) wild side...Bella...you GO girl!
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2013
It's always a pleasure as I make my way through a book, realising a quality above the usual. Especially turning the last page and knowing the book now ranks as an all-time great. This is rare. In the last year American Gods and Cloud Atlas rank as such. I'd also read Helen Zahavi's Donna and the Fatman, sometimes titled Donna's Revenge, which stood shoulder to shoulder with these other two. Donna was sublime. I bought Helen's other two books immediately, but until last Sunday I hadn't read either. Mostly because I didn't want them to spoil the esteem I held for the first - if that makes any sense at all. But I couldn't sleep Sunday and reached for the Kindle. One thing led to another, and I started reading Dirty Weekend.

Bella is a fragile and quite attractive woman, a person quite happy for the world to pass by. Unfortunately it seldom does. Her need for seclusion attracts unwanted attention. It starts with intimidating calls in the middle of the night, then personal threats as she tries to enjoy a few hours in the sun. Bella has nowhere to turn or run. Tired of a life persecuted by men who think they can own her, something trips in Bella's mind and she decides to run no more.

Any worries Dirty Weekend might taint my love of Donna and the Fatman was dispelled about two lines in. Dirty Weekend is not only possessed of the same original and sublime narrative, it defines a wonderful heroine we can admire and fear a little. Imagine Dirty Harry with the badge and scowl swapped out for a red silk dress, stilettos and a disarming smile.

Undoubtably literary throughout but easily bridging the entertainment divide, Dirty Weekend is a compulsive tale of revenge against society and the many aspects of it we accept, that with closer thought, probably shouldn't. The characters are all distinct and familiar to us in everyday life. The themes echo feminism but never preach, just lay out the facts. Both Donna and Bella have wildly entertained, stimulated and refined my interactions with women, which is something quite special I believe.

I cannot recommend Dirty Weekend highly enough, which I would urge you to read first. Because I have a few theories about where the eloquent Donna (and the Fatman) come from.

I hope this was helpful.
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on 10 March 2013
Taut plotting, spare writing, spine-chillingly good.
Every town needs a Bella.
This book will stay with you long after you've finished reading.
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on 27 November 2014
Great period piece. On the analogy of blaxploitation, it's chixploitation. Revenge on the evil that is men. It's kind of a fable, only made slightly unrealistic in the setting being Brighton, she's supposed to find herself in all these situations in one weekend. Being in the second person, the writer seems to understand far too much about the thoughts of the protaggie as well. Should have written it as herself. Nevertheless, a slash novel with character and guts (here and there...).
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on 2 May 2000
This book has to be read to be believed. Zahavis hypnotic text leads the reader into Bella's warped world, yet leaves you convinced that she's doing the right thing. I couldn't put it down, and recommend it to all the girls out there who've ever wanted revenge, and all the men who've ever taken advantage of a woman!
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on 3 January 2016
Was clearing out some books and re-read this over the weekend. My weekend wasn't quite as dirty. It's alright, not as gory or funny or obsessive as American Psycho and easy to read although fairly relentlessly despairing.Surprised it still seems to be as popular as it is, obviously others got more out of it than me.
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on 1 December 2013
Well written violent and brutal account of a woman who is finally empowered to morph from victim to predator and lash out at all the violent and abusive men, that have the misfortune to cross her path. Gripping throughout, this book has already been made into a film. An amazing read.
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on 20 January 2013
I wasn't sure of it at the start but it quickly became difficult to put down...Bella seem oddly unlucky and some of the action is a bit far-fetched but even so Helen wrote this beautifully. Her style so effective. The book is hilarious in parts and captivating throughout...brilliant.
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