July 22, 2013

Review: The Shining Girls

The Shining GirlsBy Lauren Beukes
Available now from Mulholland (Little, Brown)
Review copy

South African author Lauren Beukes is well known among genre fans for ZOO CITY, her Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel.  She makes her big six debut with THE SHINING GIRLS, a novel that is more literary but still true to her genre roots.

Harper is a serial killer.  And when the Depression-era vagrant finds the House, he's a serial killer who can time travel, any time between 1931 and 1993.  He's guided to the shining girls, women with potential and ambition.  He meets them as children and kills them as adults, taking and leaving little trinkets from girl to girl.

Kirby Mizrachi is the one who got away, who survived a brutal attack that left her with scars and difficulty making friends.  She's determined to track down the man who tried to kill her and maneuvers herself into a journalism internship so that she can access the homicide archives.  Soon enough she has her boss Dan helping her out.  But the dates just aren't adding up.

THE SHINING GIRLS is fast-paced, with the short chapters and paced scares of any summer thriller.  But it's also clever and involved, using time travel to its full advantage.  There's only one passage that I felt came too early in the novel, but I like how Beukes came back to it multiple times from different perspectives.  THE SHINING GIRLS has many narrators and it's amazing how different their voices sound.  Kirby and Harper are the main two, but almost all of the shining girls get their own chapter or two.  They're mothers and daughters, lesbians and wives, cisgender and transgender, scandalous and pillars of the community.  Beukes develops each one in their short time and makes their loss meaningful.

I did appreciate that THE SHINING GIRLS wasn't overly gory.   There is gore, and violence, and Harper's unpleasant musings.  But Beukes doesn't linger over the violence and make it sexy.   It's short and only described in detail when necessary.  I don't think I could've made it through THE SHINING GIRLS, good as it was, if the attacks were longer and more descriptive.

As it was, I read THE SHINING GIRLS in one sitting.  I was happy I had the day off, because I don't think I could've put it down.  It's a brilliant thriller with time travel.  I was hooked from the first deliciously creepy chapter and then it was off to the races.  THE SHINING GIRLS is everything I could've wanted from a book about a time-traveling serial killer.

16 comments:

  1. I've been hearing great things about The Shining Girls, along with Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I've just read Night Film, which was awesome, so I'm def. excited for this one.

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    1. Oh, I want to read Night Film! Loved her first book.

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  2. eeks! It sounds good, and I'll try it (time travel thriller!) but it also sounds like I might have to be a Braver reader than normal...

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    1. I had to be Brave at points, but I feel like Beukes was gentle about it. And I think you will like it as a time travel fan.

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  3. Wow. This sounds like an absolutely terrifying and amazing book but I'm just not sure it's for me! I like that there's not a lot of gore and that the chapters are short, I think that always adds a great feeling of tension, but I am a massive wuss and knowing Harper was going to strike again and again would cause me untold stress. I can tell just based on your thoughts :) Loved your review though Liviania!

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    1. I'll admit to being afraid of this one when I started - I read it anyway since I love Beukes!

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  4. That's quite a story, a great concept but the killing doesn't sound too good (it might not be gory but a serial husband might have been nicer!) But I do like the concept and the possibilities with it.

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    1. It all depends on your stomach for crime books.

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  5. I got this from the library, and read the first few chapters and it didn't really grab me. I like thrillers but time travel books aren't always for me. Glad you enjoyed it -- maybe I'll try it again sometime...

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    1. Eh, if you aren't a time travel person, you aren't a time travel person.

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  6. Have been dying to read this! Critics says it's this year's Gone Girl, which was amazing, a real page-turner. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I preferred it to Gone Girl, myself.

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  7. This sounds thrilling-I adore time travel but am also kind of scared! What a terrifying concept behind this.

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    1. It's not really scary. Or, not scary-scary.

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  8. Yay, so happy to hear you loved this! I've been wanting to read it, and need a good kick in the butt to do it, and this review did the job nicely! :-) I wondered whether the time travel was used well and was apprehensive about the gore, but it sounds like I have nothing to worry about. Lovely review! :-)

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    1. Glad I could give you that needed kick!

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