Author: Kirsty Eagar
Publication Date: 4/26/12
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Blurb(GR): Imagine there is someone you like so much that just thinking about them leaves you desperate and reckless. You crave them in a way that's not rational, not right, and you're becoming somebody you don't recognise, and certainly don't respect, but you don't even care.
And this person you like is unattainable. Except for one thing...
He lives downstairs.
Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane.
But since Kane's been back, he's changed. There's a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.
A gothic story about the very dark things that feed the creative process.
Night Beach is not a neat story. It’s tangled and confusing, maybe even heavy-handed. Kirsty Eagar’s ideas for this book were clearly very ambitious, but I’m not sure that they ever completely crystallized into a distinct picture. However, what really elevated this book for me was a sort of fearless display of emotion. That same emotional honesty that she showed me in Raw Blue was here and this time I felt like it was even more exposed, even more visceral. In the end she left me wondering if the lack of cohesion even mattered. Maybe this book isn’t neat, but can anything this emotionally honest ever be neat? Kirsty Eagar had big ideas, and she went for them without holding anything back. There’s a certain beauty in the disorganized but honest result. I may not have understood everything about this book, but I feel like I got it.
The main character Abbie is absolutely nothing like me, but Kirsty Eagar’s talent for descriptive writing made me feel everything right along with her. She’s an artist and a day-dreamer; she’s indecisive, unsure, and anxious; she’s ashamed of her imperfect family and she doesn’t know how to escape it. She’s a very authentic teenage girl, filled with a desperate longing for something to happen, to sweep her up – even if it’s something scary or overwhelming. Her feelings for her step-cousin Kane are exhilarating and frightening all at once. She knows that they’re not smart or healthy, but that’s not the point. Their sheer magnitude is enough.
When Kane returns from a mysterious surfing trip, he brings a dark shadowy presence with him. The shadow seems to exacerbate the posturing, misogynistic, sometimes violent behavior of the local surf culture in Kane. He becomes cagey and quick to anger. He sleeps for days on end. Soon Abbie feels the shadow in herself too, and begins to experience nightmares that bleed into and out of her waking life.
This landscape of this book is surreal and disturbing. A few of the scenes could actually qualify as horror film material (artsy horror film material, but still – this book scared me more than many actual horror books). But how much of Abbie’s experience is real and how much is just a dream? In my opinion, Kirsty Eagar leaves it very open. For Abbie, it’s very real. For Abbie, the experiences are an avenue that she uses to cope with the sometimes frightening culture she lives in, to work through the grief that she buried after her grandfather’s death. They are a way for her to acknowledge and honor the childish hopes that will never come true, and then let them go. They are a lens through which she can see what is real and what is only mirage. But there’s a dark side to them as well – an empty, desolate place where she could easily become lost. This book is about the power of art and imagination, to lead us to our darkest places and back out again.
In childhood, we are gifted with a near limitless supply of wonder and faith and creativity. We can see demons and know that they’re real. We can feel a hope and believe completely that it will lead us to better things. But then as we grow, wonder, faith, and imagination are tempered or lost. There’s a major tragedy in that, but also a triumph, because we gain so much in their passing: perspective, resilience, dimension, shadow. Everything has a shadow; every loss is also a gain. And maybe if we hold on tightly enough, we can keep a small amount of the wonder, faith, and imagination – enough to light a single candle, maybe.
I obviously loved this book, but it’s not for everyone. If you enjoy wondering but not knowing, exploring highly visual and imaginative landscapes, and descriptive prose then I would give this one a try.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Sigur Rós - Ekki múkk (moving art)