For the September edition of the #WWACBookClub, we discussed one incredibly bizarre, violent, and engrossing book - The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. The Shining Girls is the story of a time travelling serial killer, Harper Curtis. After stumbling across a house that allows him to jump to different points throughout the 20th century, he
The Shining Girls is the story of a time travelling serial killer, Harper Curtis. After stumbling across a house that allows him to jump to different points throughout the 20th century, he tracks down girls who “shine” and kills them. Except for Kirby Mazrachi – the one that got away.
The novel continually shifts between different time periods and different perspectives. Some found the novel a little hard to get into at first because of this style, but overall everyone agreed that the structure added more tension to the story. Thanks to @vertdragain we also found out the shifting perspectives worked great in audiobook form.
@womenoncomics great (& chilling!) multiple narrators for each character; also using overdrive & tracks list characters & dates
— Karen E Conway (@vertdragain) September 23, 2014
Another one of the benefits to this particular structure was that it depicted people’s lives at different time periods. Beukes has said that she used time travel to demonstrate how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Particularly for women. All of Harper’s victims were struggling against societal norms in their own ways. For example: Willie, the left leaning architect hiding in the middle of Cold War America; Alice, who was born in the 1940s with male genitalia, but is a woman inside; or Margot who helps women obtain illegal abortions in the 1970s. All of the shining girls have stories like this, and all of them are really well fleshed out even if we only get a few chapters with them.
Out of all the girls, the reader is exposed to Kirby the most, and she is the heart and soul of this novel.
@womenoncomics LOVED Kirby. I thought she was such a fabulous protagonist. Flawed and realistic and funny and smart.
— LaurAHHHH Harcourt (@blueofthebay) September 23, 2014
Though technically a victim, she refuses to let herself be victimized. She fights back against her attacker, she fights to survive, she fights to get an internship at the paper to investigate the crime, etc. She’s a character that’s easy to read about and easy to root for. But Kirby wasn’t the only character readers loved. After surviving the attack, Kirby doesn’t feel like the police are making any progress so she gets into an internship at the newspaper in an effort to track down Harper herself. She specifically requests to work with Dan, a disgraced crime reporter turned sports reporter. Laura (@blueofthebay) summed up our thoughts on Dan the best:
— WmnWriteAboutComics (@womenoncomics) September 23, 2014
One thing that surprised me about The Shining Girls was that the murder scenes are incredibly violent and way more graphic than I expected. When Kirby and her dog, Tokyo, were attacked, I had to put the book down for a bit. But some people argued in favour of the violence.
@womenoncomics I think the average person spends a life time running away from the inevitable, a reminder that death happens never hurts.
— Edward Z (@FaustianBeast) September 23, 2014
There are so many elements of The Shining Girls to discuss, but we soon found ourselves running out of time. We only just managed to squeeze in a brief mention of the time travel. There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to time travel. Some found it frustrating that the mechanics of time travel weren’t explained. Others believed an explanation wasn’t necessary to the plot and would have taken away from the suspense/pacing to take time out and get into it. They also argued that explanations often cause plot holes. There are valid points to be made on both sides, but that feels like the subject for another chat entirely.
Have you read The Shining Girls? Do you agree with our thoughts? Or do you disagree about the structure/Kirby/Dan/violence/time travel? Have you read her other novels? How does The Shining Girls compare?
Next Month’s Selection
It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives.
But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer, she discovers harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
Awaiting the judge’s decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone could ever imagine…
The chat will take place Monday October 20th at 8:30 pm EST. Use the hashtag #WWACComicClub to join in.