Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott is the author's second novel and has been shortlisted for a pile of awards this year, despite having only been released last December. It's picked up shortlistings for Aurealis Horror Novel, Ditmar Best Novel and Australian Shadows Award Novel. Reading it, the award nominations are hardly a mystery. The blurb is short and sweet:

Two sisters. One wish. Unimaginable consequences.

Not all fairytales are for children.

Perfections is about two sisters, Antoinette and Jacqueline, who live in Melbourne. The story opens with Jacqueline going off to Brisbane for work shortly after Antoinette's boyfriend dumped her. They don't have much in common other than a shared childhood and a mother. The story follows their separate issues as their lives become increasingly entwined.

Perfections isn't what I think of as psychologically-scarred for life horror (a la Slights) but there is a distinct creepiness to it and there were definitely a few disturbing bits. (Not enough to keep me up at night, but your mileage may vary.) For a large chunk of the book I thought it could be classed as the horror version of magical realism but it got a bit too... much towards the end for such a tentative label.

McDermott made me think about the relationship between the mundane and the horrifying. One doesn't have to peel back many layers to find unpleasantness in the sisters' lives, but McDermott keeps peeling until all they're left with is reality (or some facsimile thereof) and each other.

As I write this, I realise that going into Perfections I had little idea of what the book was actually about, beyond that there were two sisters. None of the reviews I read prior to picking it up (via AWW, one, two, three) reveal the instigating event near the start that kicks off the plot. Which strikes me as odd because it's not what I'd usually consider a spoiler. But I suppose I'll jump on the bandwagon; leave a comment if you want to know.

Perfections was an enjoyable read. McDermott is a skilled writer and uses a few different stylistic tools in some chapters to great effect. I definitely want to pick up her other novel, Madigan Mine, and will be keeping an eye on what she writes in the future. I recommend Perfections to fans of horror and speculative fiction generally. I suspect there's much in there to appeal to a fan of dark contemporary fiction as well (it's not that similar to After the Darkness, but if you enjoyed that book and you don't usually read genre fiction, I'd suggest giving Perfections a shot).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: December 2012, Xoum
Series: No.
Format read: eBook on iThings
Source: Purchased from iBooks (publisher page)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Horror Reading Challenge

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