Review: Night Beach

Night-Beach-final-cover-with-quote2

Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar

Penguin Group Australia, 2012

I borrowed this from the library with zero expectations – or rather, with fairly low expectations – because it looks like the sort of YA paranormal romance that I’d generally turn my nose up at. I picked it up because it had the word ‘beach’ in the title and there’s mention of a surfboard in the first page, and I’m always looking for writing about surfing to inspire my own novel. There’s a lot of bad writing about surfing out there. Like, people getting barrelled on their first lesson. I wish.

But this book – I was hooked. Right from the first page. Kirsty Eagar can clearly write about surfing, and beach life, and oceans.

The sand is crusted over from the rain yesterday and crunches under my feet, and I keep telling myself it’ll be warmer in the water.

Yes.

A line of surfers is strung out like a necklace, from the point, all the way down to the south bank. The swell is from the east; each wave face held up by the wind for an impossible long time; each crest ripped backwards into long strands of spray.

Yes yes yes.

I quickly flicked to the ‘About the author’ page and saw that she lives on Sydney’s northern beaches and surfs every day, and her first book Raw Blue won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2010. OK, I was looking at the book with new eyes now.

I thought it was brilliant. Not just the surfing scenes (which I loved), but the characterisation, the dialogue, the subplots. I loved the black dog and the kid she babysits. I like that the main character is introverted, obsessed and anxious. The story quite quickly turned dark, and was creepy enough to give me goosebumps in bed and to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck when reading on the train on the way to work. It’s not a paranormal romance at all. It’s a dark and twisted horror – it’s about loneliness, and sexuality, and wanting, and obsessions, and nightmares, and, from the blurb, ‘the dark things that feed the creative process’.

I don’t read horror, at all, (since Goosebumps, at least), but I just went with it. It’s not perfect – it felt a little repetitive sometimes with Abbie looking for Kane, chasing Kane, then running away from Kane, then looking for him again, and I just had to gloss over how many times it seemed Kane would admit to something and then straight after not acknowledge it again (but I guess that was his character). But I have to say I was happy with the *spoiler* fact that she chooses not to hook up with him at the end, and I did like that the surrealist elements weren’t explained away as some sort of stress disorder, like was hinted part way through.

Here are some more beach/surf snippets.

There’s a black dog lying on the [abandoned] couch, guarding a towel and set of keys, staring out at the surf like she’s worried. When she sees me, her tail thumps on the busted vinyl, and she licks her lips and wriggles, but she stays on that couch like she’s been nailed to it.

Give me summer. Give me dry, hot northerlies and green water that’s oily with sunscreen and sweat.

They all look the same to me, hands in pockets, legs astride, hoodies and beanies pulled on, hunkered down for winter. Faarkin’ this and faarkin’ that.

Smash the lip, gash the face, carve, cutback, ripping – it’s all about leaving your mark, being a man, dominating the wave.

And here are the artworks that are referred to throughout.

Whitelely1

Brett Whiteley, ‘Henri’s Armchair’

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Brett Whiteley, ‘Thebes’ Revenge’

mystery-and-melancholy-of-a-street-1914

Georgio de Chirico, ‘The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street’

nachtmusik

Dorothea Tanning, ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’

Dawn after the Wreck c.1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Courtauld Institute Gallery, London http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/TW0501

Dawn after the Wreck c.1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Courtauld Institute Gallery, London http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/TW0501

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