From nostalgia to downright terror, and yet there was something about this book that made me take a trip down memory lane as well. In this case it was the fact that something in the book reminded me of the eerie feeling I had when my year 5 class teacher read aloud Del Del by Victor Kelleher. Now I don’t remember the plot, but coming out of both books made me feel the same way, as though I had unleashed some creature in the reading that I’d never quite be able to let go of again.
Kirsty Eagar fascinates me, because unlike many authors she doesn’t seem to have any preferred genre. She’s swung so far from a very gritty (and well written) YA story about rape, to surfing vampires, and now with Night Beach into the realms of horror, thriller and speculative. In fact, the link between her books isn’t from genre at all, but from a very prevalent theme in each – surfing culture. Now, I don’t know anything about surfing or surfing culture so I’m not even going to pretend that I do, but Kirsty Eagar obviously does, because not once for a moment, in reading any of her books, do I doubt a word of what she’s telling me.
In Night Beach she’s telling the story of Abbie, an art and surfing obsessed senior who is also desperately attracted to Kane. She’s spent most of the past few years watching his every move, so when he comes home after a surfing trip Abbie’s the first to notice that something’s changed about him, something dark has come with him for the ride.
I hesitate to call this horror, because it isn’t the Christopher Pike knife-wielding horror of my teenage years, however there is something intensely disturbing about this book. In some places it made me think of depression or mental illness, that blackness that you can’t quite escape that all too frequently leads to obsession and the desire to venture down dark and twisted pathways. and then in other moments it’s like a surreal, speculative dream, bordering on a nightmare, but so skilfully woven that you can’t wake up, and you don’t want to.
I’ve never stood on a surfboard in my life, am growing sick of vampire books, and find it very hard to relate to the particular kind of ‘tough but vulnerable wave nut’ that Eagar writes about. But I’ll keep reading any word she writes, because her characters, if not familiar, are achingly real and her stories, no matter how dark, are spellbinding and startlingly original.