A book that inspires you to open up a word document and start writing your own tale, is a book well-written. South African author, Lauren Beukes, manages to do this with her fantastic novel: The Shining Girls.
The story revolves around a mass-murderer, Harper Curtis, who lives in Chicago and travels in time, killing women who he calls “his shining girls”.
He moves between 1929 and 1993, with the power of a house – or The House, as it is called in the novel. Even though the story is about time-travel, something that doesn’t exist, Beukes uses every day, real-life scenes to make you feel like you’re reading a story that has actually happened.
The House is like an addiction to Harper – he keeps coming back to it and keeps on killing girls. It’s a vicious cycle. He meets the girls when they are younger and then comes back for them when they have become women. While for them, the years have gone by and they have forgotten seeing Harper in their childhood, for him it’s a matter of entering The House at one time and leaving it the next minute in another time – and so he moves through the years quickly and quietly, killing innocents and leaving special objects with the body when he is done. The same objects can be found in The House – a collection of his murders. Harper also enjoys masturbating over the scenes of the crimes he committed through time, adding another layer of disgust to the story.
However, the story gets interesting when one of the victims of this untraceable killer, Kirby, manages to stay alive. She is a young woman living in 1989 and an intern at the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper – a position she uses to get evidence and information on similar attacks. She starts the hunt for her killer with people around her only sympathising when she discusses her crazy theories. But for Harper, the loop he creates every time he kills a girl has been broken. And there are consequences.
It was a bit confusing trying to remember all the victims – Beukes could have made the characters other than Harper and Kirby a bit more interesting. The jumping from different times and relating the story from many different perspectives was also a bit hard to keep up with.
I really love the way the author ended this book though. Shiver moment when you realise the meaning of the last sentence.
I found a Q&A interview with Lauren Beukes at the back of the book much to my delight. When asked why Harper extinguishing the flames of the girls before they realised their full potential is meaningful, she said: “I think if you wanted to get deep and heavy with it, it’s a comment on what society does to women generally. Not as literally as murdering them, but killing their potential, through socio-economic forces, through historical injustices with an enduring legacy, or lack of education, or inadequate access to birth control, or lack of affordable childcare, or stupid anonymous online trolls who harass women who dare to have an opinion on the Internet with rape and death threats, and, most horribly, the women who are beaten and abused in real life and have to pick up the pieces and find a way to carry on. It’s about crushing their spirit.”
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