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Oblomov

The most disturbing work of fiction that you have ever read

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All of us have read one or more books that really disturbed us deep down to the extent that we get upset even thinking about them. I have restricted this query to fiction because factual events disturb us in all sorts of complicated reasons that often do not share common grounds and are therefore difficult to quantify. Bearing that in mind, which particular book disturbed you most of all? It does not matter if you liked or loathed the underlying story.

 

For me, it has to be Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, followed some distance behind by George Orwell's 1984.

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Misery - Stephen King - I finished it but my imagination nearly stopped me.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver - was also disturbing for me in that it looked at parenting and nature vs nurture in detail - it really made you think :hyper:

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For me, it has to be Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, followed some distance behind by George Orwell's 1984.

 

I had to abandon A Clockwork Orange when I read it years and years ago aged 19 - I found the violence too upsetting (unbearable in fact). I haven't read 1984 mainly because I've always suspected that I would find it depressing and worrying.

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The Demon by Hubert Selby Jnr. It describes the descent into insanity of a seemingly ordinary man, with a pretty brutal climax. It is a good read, but very uncomfortable, as you can sense that the end result ain't gonna be pretty. :hyper:

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Mo Hayder The Treatment, much too scarey for me, I had nightmares.

Possibly because was too close to home, I have boys around that age if you know the story.

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I read a few of James Herbert's books a few years ago. I found them quite compelling to read, but I have no desire to read them again. I can only describe them as disturbing!

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Just to clarify my query in case there is confusion: By " most disturbing" I did not necessarily mean "most terrifying". Books by Stephen King, James Herbert etc are scary when one reads them and perhaps thinking about them later when one is alone etc. But being rather removed from reality, such stories are not likley to leave a sustained chill in one's being as those where a measure of possibility exists.

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I don't think I have ever read a book which has disturbed me. I don't tend to go for those sort of books. (Hence that's probably why I wasn't able to finish Ugly by Constance Briscoe.)

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Like Nici, I've not really found any books that disturbed me, but I think it's because I've almost become immune to it, rather than avoiding those books. Folks at work thought I was strange because I was laughing at American Psycho, but I thought the dark humour was hilarious! Other people thought it strange that the over-riding emotion I felt while reading We Need to Talk About Kevin was boredom - I could have done with MORE nastiness in that one, just to liven things up!

 

If all this makes me sound a bit like a psycho, I'd just like to reassure everyone that I'm actually a very nice and mostly stable person really!

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Just to clarify my query in case there is confusion: By " most disturbing" I did not necessarily mean "most terrifying". Books by Stephen King, James Herbert etc are scary when one reads them and perhaps thinking about them later when one is alone etc. But being rather removed from reality, such stories are not likley to leave a sustained chill in one's being as those where a measure of possibility exists.

 

 

I think we understood you the first time

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I also found A Clockwork Orange very disturbing, and yet it has become one of my favourite books.

 

There's also a novella of Stephen King's: The Apt Pupil (not a horror story). I couldn't wait to get to the end of that story. It just got more and more disturbing the longer it went on. It's one I won't forget in a hurry.

 

Speaking of King, from what I understand about the plot of Misery, which doesn't have any basis in the supernatural as some of his stories do, it sounds as though it's a story in which (to quote your good self, Oblomov) 'a measure of possibility exists', which I think is what would make it so disturbing. Personally I've never had a desire to read Misery. In fact, I just looked it up on wikipedia and the plot summary was more than disturbing enough for me - it sounds far worse than what I originally thought it would be!

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I don't think I have found any book disturbing yet. I have found some movies disturbing, but I think that is because I've been forced to face things I find disturbing in a more graphic manner. With books - you can always tone your imagination down!

 

The Green Mile disturbed me - the movie. I read that bit in the book though and it wasn't as bad as seeing it on screen. That really made me feel utterly horrible after watching that - but had I read it I probably wouldn't have been so effected.

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King Rat by James Clavell

 

It's about a WWII prison camp. Yeah, it was disturbing - I dreamed about this book while reading it. A very good book that I'll never read again. My experience was that I got used to the environment while reading it, almost immune - and so was doubly disturbed when the camp is freed and shocked at the conditions they were living in. The personal dynamics are brilliant to which I almost felt I could apply "prison camp dynamics" to my "small college faculty dynamics" -- wotta book! Wotta disturbing book!

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I confess that I have not read the book Misery, though I have seen the film. I did find it very disturbing, as I do with any film or book that is graphic about human depravity.

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I confess that I have not read the book Misery, though I have seen the film. I did find it very disturbing, as I do with any film or book that is graphic about human depravity.

 

Me too. And that's what was disturbing about Apt Pupil - it was about a boy who became acquainted with an old man who was responsible for the deaths/atrocities perpetrated on many people in the concentration camps of WWII.

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Another book which I found extremely disturbing and in fact did not like is William Golding's Lord of the Flies. I know that it is hailed as a modern day classic, but somehow I feel that the author concentrated too much on exploiting the more primitive aspects of his prospective readers' minds. The plot in Lord of the Flies is more intentional than instinctive as in A Clockwork Orange or Nineteen Eighty-four

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I was depressed for about a week after reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell -- morose and with tears frequently coming to my eyes. His vision of a post-apocalyptic world was much too plausible to ignore as simply fiction. Clockwork Orange, to my mind, was too unrealistic to bother me, and 1984 was clearly satirical. But the end of habitability on Earth in Cloud Atlas really struck home as a prediction.

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Like Fiona, the only thing I've ever read that genuinely shocked and disturbed me was the execution scene from The Green Mile. This was because it was so brilliantly written and unexpectedly gory. Nothing in the story up to that point really prepared me for such a vivid description.

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Books by Stephen King, James Herbert etc are scary when one reads them and perhaps thinking about them later when one is alone etc. But being rather removed from reality, such stories are not likley to leave a sustained chill in one's being as those where a measure of possibility exists.

 

The parts that I found disturbing in the James Herbert books WERE the parts that had a measure of possibility. I think it was the Ghosts of Sleath or possibly The Fog which had descriptions of child abuse in and there were other parts which were a little bit too possible for comfort!

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I was depressed for about a week after reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell -- morose and with tears frequently coming to my eyes. His vision of a post-apocalyptic world was much too plausible to ignore as simply fiction. Clockwork Orange, to my mind, was too unrealistic to bother me, and 1984 was clearly satirical. But the end of habitability on Earth in Cloud Atlas really struck home as a prediction.

 

I confess that I had never heard of Cloud Atlas before, but looked it up after your post. Sounds interesting, as does Russell Horban's Riddley Walker that I found through the links. I'll get those two books someday.

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Cloud Atlas is the best book of the 21st century so far. It's wonderful, and I didn't find it at all disturbing. Even the dystopian future section wasn't disturbing - but the book as a whole was just glorious.

 

My Idea Of Fun is really disturbing because it's a book about a man whose alter-ego is off committing American Psycho type crimes, but who is absolving himself from all the blame by blaming his alter-ego. And Marabou Stork Nightmares is the story of a man in a coma, going through how he got into the coma through football related violence, and is gruesomely unpleasant - the end scene is maybe the nastiest "redemption" I've ever read.

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My list of books which disturbed me is short, as I get upset easily by violence etc so tend to avoid books that feature it if I can. As I read all of Stephen King's work, some titles of his upset me greatly, notably Apt Pupil and The Green Mile. The latter had me in floods of tears and I've never been able to bring myself to read it again, or watch the film. The other disturbing books I've read would be Lord of the Flies and 1984.

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I know this is an old thread but...

On the Beach - Nevil Shute

I thought it was really good but also very disturbing. And surprisingly easy to relate to. Would recommend reading it.

Maybe it had particular resonance cos i was brought up during the 80s and although the nuclear threat had diminished a bit it still felt like a possibility...

Anyone else read it?

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followed some distance behind by George Orwell's 1984.

I was going to answer nineteen eighty four but with the amount of surveillance etc I think "fiction" may not be quite the correct term for that book any more.

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