Perfections is McDermott’s second novel, released in digital format through Xoum publications.
I reviewed Kirstyn’s first novel Madigan Mine, released in both pbook and ebook fromm by Picador - here.
If you liked Madigan Mine, you’ll still like Perfections but they don’t occupy quite the same space.
Ian Mond, Kirstyn’s co-host on the Writer and the Critic described it as more of a character piece. Kirstyn herself has tentatively called it modern urban gothic, situating it at the subtler end of the horror continuum.
And I think Perfections is a subtler piece of work than Madigan Mine. I always had suspicions with what was going on with Kirstyn’s first novel, it had a stronger affinity with well known Horror tropes.
Don’t get me wrong though, Perfections is still gut wrenchingly nasty at times, enough to really unsettle you but I was hard pressed to figure out where the horror was going to emerge - which of course kept me slightly on edge.
Now you notice here I am avoiding telling you the story. And I am not going to reveal anything about the plot, aside from the blurb:
Two sisters. One wish. Unimaginable consequences.
Not all fairytales are for children.
It’s best to dive into this one blind, trust the author to entertain you. It’s not one to give you nightmares but Kirstyn will make you love the characters and then let things unravel so that the horror, the tragedy hits you unawares.
If you enjoy King when he does well crafted characters in slightly off kilter realities then I think you’ll enjoy Kirstyn’s work here. The horror, the suspense comes from or empathy with the characters she has crafted, and what she does to them.
The writing is smooth flowing prose that seems effortless but that I suspect was agonising to refine.
Even cushioned with anger it hurts to say the words, to hear them, and Antoinette knows with gut-sinking certainty that if Paul was standing here before her, if he had the balls to stay and plead his own case instead of sending Greta as proxy, then she would have little hope of resistance. Poised on the edge of her life here, Paul and their flat and the history that seeps from every wall, every photograph stuck careless to the fridge, every half-burned candle and guilty wine stain on the carpet, how easy it would be to close her eyes and jump, to allow herself the exhilaration of free-fall.
There is so much more I would love to talk about but it would give the game away.– the cover for instance and how well it suits the work. What makes it a smart bit of art amongst all the other “male gaze” cover art out there.
Horror has a bad reputation, possibly well deserved in some areas within the genre, where the grotesque comes to the fore, where violence and blood are thrown at the reader to make up for a lack of real substance.
McDermott, however, combines literary skill and a horror that focuses on the personal, on human desires and interactions, to give us a work of quality that should appeal to a broad audience.
Perfections was provided to me by the author.
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.