There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
A Week of Reviews – Tuesday
After I finished Mogworld (yesterday’s review), I picked up The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. I was really excited about this one because I got it before publication from the nice people at The Harper Insider but I was planning to buy it anyway because I’m going to her launch event at Forbidden Planet in London. It’s always nice when you get something that you’ve been wanting to read before other people do, especially when you can review it once you’re done. (Unless you hate it. I always feel bad about writing a review for an advance copy that I hated.)
Luckily, I didn’t hate The Shining Girls.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
I LOVED this book. I want to tell you that before I write the rest of the review because I now have to let you know that I found this very hard going at first. The Shining Girls is about a series of murders and the one victim who got away and went looking for the killer. It’s not your run-of-the-mill crime thriller, though. The murders are scattered through time between the 1930s and the 1990s and they weren’t all killed in chronological order. Also, there’s a mysterious house that might be more than just its bricks and mortar.
I feel like I need to read this book more than once to really get the best out of it. It took me a while to start making sense of because of the time and perspective shifts. At first, I would just get into what was happening and then I would suddenly be in a different year or be reading from the point of view of another character. There were times when this was frustrating, especially when something exciting was happening in one year and then I would be somewhere else instead of finding out what happened next. I also found it quite tricky to keep the timeline in my head and many of the events didn’t make sense until the end.
I really do believe, however, that the things I just complained about were one of the good things about the book. The payoff when you realise how things fit together is amazing.
I found reading from the point of view of the killer quite difficult in places. He was not a good man, by any stretch of the imagination, and some of the things that you read about from his perspective are just really unpleasant. I think it was an interesting choice by the author and it definitely does make the story stronger and ties it together in a way that would not have otherwise happened.
There is also something to be said for the way in which the victims in this story weren’t voiceless nobodies. They all have their own fleshed-out lives, with thoughts and feelings and histories that have nothing to do with the killer. So many fictional murder victims exist only to be killed that it was, in some ways, nice to have the chance to see them as people. Although it did make the murders more difficult to read.
I also thought the heroine, Kirby, was a really interesting, well fleshed-out character. I will warn you that if you’re sensitive to violence in books – especially violence against women – you’ll find it hard to read about the attack that Kirby survives. I had to put the book down for a while and come back to it when my nerves felt a little less jangly. If that’s not going to be a deal-breaker or too painful for you, though, I’d definitely advise you to read the book. Kirby is a survivor, a fighter. Something terrible happens to her but she’s strong and brave. She was a character that I didn’t know that I wanted until I read this book and now I wish I could find out what happens to her after it ends.
Although this book was difficult to get into, once it got its hooks into me, I thought it was amazing. The final third was impossible to stop reading because I had to know how it would end.
I would definitely recommend it.