I must say, I really did enjoy this story – as dark as it may be. I remember really enjoying this when it was in its infant drabble form during the brawl. Mrs. Zabini is an extremely interesting character, and the way you’ve characterized her makes her even more shrouded in mystery. I feel like the true feat of this story, however, is the way you’ve made her into a more dimensional character by giving her a trauma behind her actions. This was perhaps the crux of the story, as it showed the reason this young, lonely girl suddenly turned so violent.
The narration of this story was well-written. It was different, not as telling as a confessing tone yet more personal than a simple first-person narrative. I felt like this was really established in this line: You may think what you wish; I cannot stop you from drawing your own conclusions. Here, as the reader I was able to get the sense that Mrs. Zabini wasn’t going to be telling the entire story, that it would be left up to the reader to string together the insinuations. I thought the line after the one above was a little redundant, in that it didn’t add any new information, making it the slightest bit confusing. However I don’t feel like this detracted from the story and pointing it out is a little harsh, so I won’t dwell on that. The tone and style you have developed from the chosen narration was effective in that it flowed like a conversation, yet was silent about just enough to keep the reader intrigued. When writing a story, I sometimes feel that the style of narration just happens and isn’t necessarily chosen, and that’s what it seemed like here – this narration is just so fitting for Mrs. Zabini. The uniqueness was there but not overbearing, subtly folded in the mysterious story of Sesen Zabini.
What a character you have filled out! In the beginning, she sounds calculating and teasing, as though she has no regrets over killing her husbands – that is, if she did kill them – and wants to keep the readers guessing. At first she is simply lonely, telling the audience just enough to keep them interested in her and only her for the duration of the story. Then, as though she’s striving for some sort of deeper connection with someone – anyone – she tells the story of Demeke. Through your writing in that section, we learn so much more about Sesen than she probably wants us to know. She was unloved, or loved less so than her sisters. It’s suggested that her parents didn’t have a happy marriage through the mention of her half-brothers; perhaps, she never expected that any marriage could be happy and therefore has no qualms over the murder of her husbands because she expects their brief happiness won’t last anyway. Briefly, you give the reader so many hints as to the troubled girl she must have been, before building up to the event that pushed her over the edge and eventually caused her to be the person she is at the time of narration.
Assault is always something that should be treated delicately, because it is something that is so easily over-the-top or mishandled. I thought you did this very well; the scene had the proper amount of disgust and violation without Sesen getting out of character and telling too much detail. Your way of describing her feelings was just wonderful, particularly in these lines: I still remember what it had really felt like – a mass of blubbery flesh forcing itself against my mouth. It made me feel ugly and alien. If the reader didn’t feel sympathy towards Sesen Zabini’s loneliness as a child, they certainly would feel it here. It makes it all the more tragic when you’re able to realize that she had no one to turn to except herself, which definitely gives her the motive for taking matters into her own hands.
The entire story was written so carefully and so well. Though the reader gets the heavy impression that Mrs. Zabini has killed all of her husbands – and you’ve given her proper motive to do so – it is never stated directly. She never even says directly that she killed Demeke, though I think that is the one murder that she is willing to let the audience know about. You’ve made such an interesting, dangerous, and intimidating character, but she is still someone we can sympathize with at least partially for the misfortune in her early childhood.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, Natalie. You really are a brilliant writer.
Author's Response: Will you ever forgive me for this? :/ “When writing a story, I sometimes feel that the style of narration just happens and isn’t necessarily chosen, and that’s what it seemed like here – this narration is just so fitting for Mrs. Zabini.” I agree with this! I’ve never had to change the narrative voice of any of my fic, nor the tone. It just happens because I think, at the back of your mind, you actually do know what is going to happen. (I say this because often, I write without any sort of planning and let the story take me where it wants to, or I seem to think so.) It’s great to know you enjoyed Mrs Zabini’s confession and how the reader can’t be hundred per cent sure it is one. My main objective was to show how cunning and twisted she is: no one can prove she committed those murders, but everyone who knew the cases intimately would have no other choice but to conclude she did. She is mocking them here as she cannot be accused outright. I do believe that one’s childhood influences his or her adult life a lot. I don’t claim to be a psychologist, but the idea that Zabini murdered their husbands for reasons other than money – a deep hatred and repulsion for man, for instance – is more plausible (not to mention intriguing) than plain greed. When I first conceived her story, which was over a year ago, Demeke and her unloving father were always the reason. Oh yeah, I had a full-fledged chaptered fic in mind with details of all the husbands and their death planned out. Just couldn’t work up enough energy to actually write it. Writing non-con situation is bloody tricky and tough. It was a challenge writing it for the brawl, too; I couldn’t make it graphic, and I am not sure I’d have been able to. But I am glad it turned out it wasn’t necessary to make it graphic in the first place. Thank you so freaking much for the review! <33
I read this a few days ago and wasn't really sure what to think about it... so I came back today to read it again and write this review.
I think what stands out to me is your amazing ability to get into character - as I read this, I forgot I was reading something written by an author whose work I've read before... it felt like I was reading something written by Sesen Zabini. It was almost like she was speaking to me, maybe flicking her hair over he shoulder or looking at her nails... (well that's how I imagined it anyway).
I liked how you compared fact and fiction in this, for example. Remember that this is a factual declaration.
For years, I have been the subject of much speculation, gossip and rumour on account of these statistics. That's a great juxtaposition, and I think it works well in this fic, because at no point do we as readers know how much Sesen is telling the truth.
I loved how you really delved into this character and considered why she might be how she is... Demeke was the boy who taught me something about men which I’ve put to use so many times in my life. Men find it hard to resist the temptation offered by a welcoming, beautiful woman; when that woman is me, it is impossible to do so. My name is, after all, Sesen – desire. I think it's really amazing how you gave such a sense of her childhood and how little she was accepted, and then the incident with Demeke, in so few words, and yet it was so powerful.
This was very well-written, Natalie, and a great read.
Author's Response: Katrinaaa! I'm thrilled to hear about what you thought about this because - like Gina and Lea- you said what I wanted to hear from the reader. Even in this 'confession', she's not giving away anything; she's merely encouraging the rumors, titillating people, enjoying it because she knows they'll never know what is real and what is not. She does give them a hint via her story, but even that hint cannot be solid evidence. Thanks for the great review, really! <33
You've captured a casual, cruel tone here rather well. At least, that's my impression of this woman. The style is really neat, like the narrator is speaking directly to the reader. I can *hear* her saying this to me, and picture her saying it with a casual wave of her hand, perhaps a slight twist to her lips, a gleam in her eyes.
Lea is right, though - after hearing only about Demeke, one does want a bit more detail on the others, even though I know that probably wasn't the point. Have you fleshed them out in your head canon? And poor Lucas! The only gentleman, and doomed.
Nice writing, Natalie! ~Gina :)
Author's Response: Thank you for describing how you pictured it in your head - that's exactly what I was aiming for. :D I didn't mean to write about the other husbands, because I wanted to leave those in the dark, make people draw their own conclusions. But now I'm severely tempted! Thanks so much for the review, GinGin! <33
I love the way you've written her. Her indifference and boredom make me sad for her, even though she is a murderer. How horrible to be reminded of that first experience forever.
You've made me want to hear about all of the other husbands. *hugs*
Author's Response: You've made me want to write about all of the other husbands. :D Thanks for the reviewww! <333