For Abbie, her life revolves around three things: art, the ocean, and Kane, her broody surfer step-cousin. Always out of reach, Abbie watches him and obsesses over him. But when Kane comes back from a mysterious surf trip to an even more mysterious island, Abbie senses that something is wrong. Kane carries a darkness that threatens to envelop them both.
It’s hard to summarize Eagar’s brilliant, darkly gothic novel without giving too much of it away. The book is about a girl with a heightened emotional state, and maybe because of this heightened state (or in spite of?), supernatural events begin to occur. Readers looking for an intensely atmospheric and engrossing tale should look no further than this one. Eagar somehow manages to spin a paranormal tale that feels firmly rooted in the real world. I’ve said it before and it might as well be my mantra: Eagar is an author to watch.
The atmosphere isn’t the only aspect of Eagar’s novel that entraps the reader. Vivid, authentic characters propel the narrative forward. Abbie is raw and flawed, and her obsession with Kane is only one thing that clouds her judgment. Her love of painting distorts reality for her, as she struggles to see beyond the surface of things. Her creative impulses mirror her other impulses, and readers will find her exasperating as well as worth rooting for.
Kane is harder to like, but because of Abbie’s fixation on him, it’s hard not to see the appeal. He’s the quintessential surfer with a darker side, and while he’s definitely a selfish, hardened character, there’s no questioning his attraction. Eagar is especially adept at creating characters who feel undeniably real: they may not be what you expect, and the story is the better for it.
Tension abounds in this taut novel. Not every reader is going to “get” this one, and it’s certainly not the Eagar novel I’d recommend a person start with, but it has no shortage of merits. Eagar’s prose is pitch-perfect, lush, and evocative. There’s never a moment where she’s not in total control of her words, and the story moves along at a great clip as a result. This is a stunning novel, and one that will stick with you long after you’ve reached the novel’s satisfyingly murky conclusion.
Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar. Penguin Books Australia: 2012. Purchased copy.