Saturday, 8 February 2014

January 2014 - The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

‘The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.' The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes follows the story of Harper Curtis, a time travelling serial killer and Kirby Mazrachi, one of his victims who not only survives but chooses to hunt down her attacker. The book was generally well received by the group although some found some of the content both disturbing and difficult to read. Most people felt this reaction was a credit to the author's skill at building tension and depicting such unsettling events.

It was felt that the author's ability to write believable characters was particularly strong. The character of Harper in particular was felt by most to be a vivid portrayal of a man with deeply psychopathic tendencies. His sense of compulsion and cruelty came across very strongly throughout the novel, lending no sympathy to his character but an unwelcome understanding of his mind. The house itself played its part as a character in this novel with a sense of it being almost sentient in its influence over Harper. Some felt that more of an explanation was needed as to the history of the house and its inner workings. Others felt that too much information on the myriad influence that it has on the characters would have overwhelmed or halted the flow of the novel, particularly with the complex ideas of time travel and fate.

One passage that the group felt particularly significant was when Harper discovered the wall of trophies of murders he was yet to commit. Another striking section of the novel was the attack on Kirby. Many members of the group found this a very difficult chapter to read as the author did not hold back on details, creating a vivid and disturbing chapter. The group felt that the author dealt well with the theme of violence by introducing us to Harper's victims very intimately in their own chapters prior to the attacks. By creating such complex and rich characters we see them as individuals and not just faceless targets. It was felt that the varied imagery of their respective 'trophies' echoed this.

When discussing the overall structure of the novel the group felt that it was generally easy to follow despite jumping through different time periods. Most felt that following the timeline of the killer rather than one of his victims was a clever way of building tension through the novel as the conclusion to the story remains unknown until the last chapter.

Overall the group felt that the novel had well written ending with some mixed views as to whether the author should have included a bit more information on the fate of the characters after the climatic events of the final chapter or if the feeling of uncertainty lent a certain freedom to characters who had so far been governed by a preordained line of events.

Average score of 7.8

Write up by Karen

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