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Sydney Herald Reports on "Cult of Books about Cults"

Not only is there a growing body of art about the high-demand groups commonly known as cults, there is a burgeoning field of reporting on the reporting of individual experiences.


I've broken down some bits from what is more than just a book review of Pomare's "In the Clearing" from a January 2020 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald. My thoughts on this one book will be the subject of a following post.

What's Available;


"...it’s part of a very crowded field that just keeps on growing. I started looking up books on girls who escape from cults and after a while I gave up – there are an unbelievable number out there.

Fact, fiction, memoir … you name a cult and somebody has written a tell-all book about it, or made up a story inspired by it. What puzzles me is why readers are so fascinated with these stories. And this is a widespread fascination, for many of these books are perennial bestsellers."


Why the Interest;


"Maybe it’s voyeurism? Cults are a boon to thriller writers. A closed-off world with its own strict rules and violent punishments; abuse, especially of women and children; brainwashing and exploitation; and the hypocrisy of all-powerful leaders. Not to mention titillating sex and sadism.

Wacky American sects who do tricky things with poisonous snakes are particularly popular. They pop up in such disparate books as Christian White’s The Nowhere Child, Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend and Andrew Miller’s The Crossing."


How Themes are Used to Represent Current Social Issues;


"You can also use a fictional cult setting to make a serious point about the world we live in, or are in danger of entering. Margaret Atwood’s cult of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments is so pervasive, it has taken over an entire country."


Categories Within the Genre;


"Some novels focus on the reasons why someone can become susceptible to a cult. Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s Beautiful Revolutionary is a study of a woman in need of a saviour. She finds one in Jim Jones, the real-life leader of the cult that came to a hideous end in the Jonestown Massacre of 1978."


Examples of Sects Represented in Print;


"Emma Cline’s The Girls is inspired by the followers of Charles Manson.

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact looks at a young couple who join a mysterious group. Other novels in this category are The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon; and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, which is also about the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s."


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