Thursday, September 27, 2012

Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar

First published by Penguin, 2012

It was important to me, that this book be brilliant. Kirsty’s Raw Blue is still one of the best YA books I’ve ever read. Night Beach covers similar territory - teen angst, identity, the beach, very Australian. I was so ready for her lovely writing, characters and story to sweep me away.

I admire the ambition of Night Beach. I think its gothic inclinations are rather beautiful – the imaginative ideas, the way they gel with the contemporary story. But I feel as if it wasn’t a successful melding, and I can’t really say why. I don’t know, I think it’s a mix of being a little too overwrought, a little too long, maybe even not feeling Eagar’s confidence with what she was doing. It might be that I think it all got a little indulgent? Whatever it is, I found (in the second half of the book especially) that it all got a little overdone and overworked, and all the single lovely things I’d enjoyed about the first half of the book all got a little eaten up by the complexities of the second half.

There are some Raw Blue moments that I really loved. Some of Abbie’s thoughts, the way the atmosphere builds and heightens, especially in a terrific scene that simply involves Abbie in her house, trying to walk upstairs. Wow. The gothic-flavoured moments of dread are electrifying. Of course, being a lover of the sea, I enjoyed once again the idea of Abbie drawing comfort from the ocean. Sometimes even I can’t explain my emotional connection to the sea, but hey, Eagar does it for me. She really gets that unknowable, sometimes terrifying power the ocean can have, and it heightens the atmosphere in the book.

I think Night Beach could have done with an extra edit. I would have liked to see all the little sub-plots (the baby-sitting, the Hollywood thing, her Dad and the new baby) tied together, or worked into the gothic narrative a bit more. The painting sub-plot is really the only thing that is worked fully and successfully into the supernatural elements. Also, the whole mystery surrounding Kane and the boys and what happened on the island – perfectly plausible, but I think I wanted something more.

I understood where Abbie was coming from; that deep, consuming ache for someone. But I wanted to shake her a little. I did find her a bit tedious at times; Carly in Raw Blue was full of emotional baggage but she was never, er, pathetic. But I understood her attraction to Kane, and I think her longing was captured realistically.

Hmm. An ambitious, unique, and frequently lovely book. Not 100% sold though.

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