Night Beach: review

April 17, 2012 2012, 4 star books, australian authors, kirsty eagar, Reynje 39

Night Beach Kirsty Eager Aussie YA

Night Beach

by Kirsty Eagar

“But there the night is close, and there

Darkness is cold and strange and bare;
And the secret deeps are whisperless; ..and music is
The exquisite knocking of the blood…”  

The Fish, Rupert Brooke (1911)

Night Beach is an intense, evocative novel that explores the shadowy recesses and dark corners of the mind that birth, feed and foster art and obsession. It’s an unsettling story, delving into unchartered spaces of the consciousness, a story that balances precariously between the real and the unreal. Eagar takes those shades between light and darkness, between solid and intangible, and distils from it a novel that beautifully crystalises the mercurial nature of creativity, and the mental torment of fixation.

As with her debut Raw Blue, Eagar’s writing is at once both familiar and striking. She writes about Australian surf culture and life with the apparent ease of experience, her prose interwoven with vivid imagery. And in Night Beach, a novel that deals explicitly with the subject of art and the processes that stimulate it, Eagar uses her distinct lyricism to powerful, often startling effect.

Eager has referred to her third novel as “sea-gothic”, and it’s a fitting term. Night Beach opens in a seemingly standard contemporary structure, with a slightly chilling tone leaching through, hinting at the disquieting depths that lie beneath. It’s a book that blurs the lines between genres, merging realistic, romanticism and horror elements into something of a hybrid. Unusual and disturbing, this is a story that spurns simple categorisation, and leaves itself open to varied reader interpretations.

What I love about Kristy Eagar’s novels is that she’s unafraid to create complex, vulnerable, occasionally unsympathetic characters. Often subverting reader expectations, Eagar’s stories are woven around people who are damaged, in pain, or lead fractured lives. Both Abbie and Kane are excellent examples of this – Abbie as the intuitive, achingly raw protagonist, and Kane, the flawed object of her obsession and catalyst for her descent into the unknown.

Eagar presents these characters in such a manner that the reader is never quite on steady ground with them. She provides glimpses of optimism and gentleness, only to also reveal the sinister, destructive elements that taint the characters’ interactions and punctuation their relationship.

In a similar way, the depiction of surf culture in Night Beach is unapologetic and sharply observant of the deep-rooted systems of hierarchy and aggression that exist in the surf community. This is not to say that this is the prevailing attitude Australia-wide – but a patriarchal, possessive culture does exist in places – and Eagar boldly nails it. There’s a nebulous undercurrent of threat that tempers Eagar’s descriptions of the beauty of the beach and Abbie’s love of surfing – a subtle suggestion that there’s more than one way to see things.

This is a creepy, strange novel, with Abbie navigating the uncertainties of her own life as well as the shadows that seem to emanate from Kane. Reader mileage for scariness will vary, but I’ll freely admit that I had to put my Kindle down at one stage and walk away, thoroughly freaked out. It’s definitely a psychologically intense novel, one that pulls the nerves tight and anchors attention to the page. While a considerable amount of the story depends upon the power of suggestion, leaving space for the reader to speculate – and Abbie’s viewpoint lists to the introspective end of the scale – it’s not a slow book. The darkness keeps it compelling, and Eagar ups the ante as the scenes move from haunting to disturbing.

However – and here lies my highly subjective issue – the plot moves into a realm in which I did not wish to follow. Without spoiling, I can only say that once the answers became clearer, the story began to lose me. It makes sense, it fits together, the mystery plays out well – but I much preferred the ambiguous, unstable nature of the story before it was explained. To me, the story felt stronger for the unreliability it built around Abbie. That said, I doubt many will agree with me – and that’s a good thing.

In the end, the strongest element of this story for me is Abbie’s metamorphosis– and the person she becomes – as she emerges from this dark and strangely beautiful book.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 2012

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

Night Beach is an Australian YA novel, and may be ordered through

39 Responses to “Night Beach: review”

  1. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    Wow, strong review! I am so loving this trend of art themes in YA, Graffiti Moon and Wanderlove come to mind, and I loved Raw Blue and the insight into the surf culture of Australia (which is actually a lot like the surf culture where I am from in the States.) Plus it’s Gothic AND a psychological thriller, which makes it even more awesome! And probably why I already pre-ordered it from Fishpond:) I’m enjoying all the early reviews:)

  2. Sarah (saz101)

    Oh goodness, Reynje… another stunning review… you have such a gift with words. I’m so excited to read this now… I love the idea of how unsettling it sounds, and… well, everything you’ve described. From the way Edgar’s nailed the darker sides of self culture… for every person out there who just loves the connection to the surf and nature, there are those who bring an undercurrent of (not always repressed) violence.

    GORGEOUS review ♥

    • Reynje

      Thank you so much Sarah :) I do hope you get to read it – it’s such an unusual book, but the writing is just so gorgeous. Happy reading!

  3. A Canadian Girl

    I loved Eagar’s Raw Blue so I can’t wait to read this one even though I tend to avoid creepy novels. And this one sounds completely creepy!

  4. Sam

    I haven’t actually read Kirsty Eager’s Raw Blue so I don’t know if her writing style will be for me, but I do love the sound of this book. Creepy and gothic with characters like those you have described makes it sound like a book that will be difficult to forget in a hurry. Wonderful review! :)

  5. Book Sake

    I love the “sea gothic” sound to the book. Sounds a bit creepy, I think I will have to give this one a read and see how I feel about it.

    – Jessica @ Book Sake

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, I got “sea-gothic” directly from Kirsty Eager’s website too, Reynje! Just in case you think Jessica and I are crazy. :)

  6. Lalaine

    I didnt enjoy this one like you did but the author’s writing is so good that I enjoyed it all the same, but didnt loved this, its just that Abbie is too strange for me, I avoid this kind of leading character in a book. but like ive said the author’s writing is so fab. Great review Reynje. x


    • Reynje

      Thanks Lalaine :) Night Beach won’t be for everyone, but I’m glad you enjoyed Kirsty Eagar’s writing.

  7. chachic

    Beautiful review, Reynje! You’ve made me even more curious about Night Beach. Although I’m not exactly sure this is a book for me – it sounds creepy and haunting and I’m not sure if I can take that. I might need to pause while reading like you did.

    • Reynje

      Thanks Chachic :) Night Beach was definitely a little creepy, but I think it really worked. Kirsty Eagar is such an amazing writer!

  8. Natalie (Mindful Musings)

    I’ve heard so much about Kirsty Eagar…especially about Raw Blue! I’ve been planning on reading something by her ever since! Glad to hear this is a good one as well! :)

    • Reynje

      I loved Raw Blue, Natalie. It’s definitely one of my favourite Australian YAs. I really hope you get the chance some Kirsty Eagar soon :)

  9. Rachel

    This is on my Aussie challenge for the year. After your review, I can’t wait to read it. Thanks Reynje!

  10. 1girl2manybooks

    Fabulous review! I actually have this one sitting in my drafts folder with about 3 words done from it because I’m finding it so difficult to write. I loved the book but the words are just not coming right now!

    • Reynje

      I understand the feeling – it took me a really long time to collect my thoughts on this book. So glad that you loved it too :)

  11. Wendy Darling

    If I wasn’t already salivating to read this book (you know me and gothics!), this definitely would have done it. Beautiful, beautiful review Reynje!

  12. Lexie

    Gorgeous review. I’ve been hearing nothing but fantastic things about this one, so I’d really, really love to read it. I don’t know what it is with these Australian authors and their crazy talent.

    • Reynje

      Perhaps it’s something in the water, Lexie ;) I’d love to see this book get some attention outside of Australia too.

  13. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings

    You have peaked my interest. This sounds like a complicated, dark emotional roller coaster. I do like seeing the metamorphsis of characters but am unsure what to think about the strange plot twist you mentioned. Thanks for the wonderful review Reynje.

    • Reynje

      Thanks Heidi – it really is a tough one to describe – different to anything else I’ve read :)

    • Reynje

      Thanks Andrea! It’s hard to explain this one without giving away all the secrets :) It’s definitely an intriguing book..

  14. Vegan YA Nerds

    Brilliant review, Rey, as usual! I was so proud of Abbie’s decision at the end, a stereotypical teen wouldn’t have done what she did, so I was happy with that aspect.

    Also, I found this so hard to review without spoiling it for anyone else, you did a fantastic job :)