‘ I run up the dunes with the wind howling at my back, my ears burning from its bite. It carries the sting of snow from faraway mountains and hooks under the tail of my surfboard so that I have to fight to keep it tucked under my arm… A line of surfers is strung out like a necklace, from the point, all the way down to the south bank… One day I’m going to paint this place. Probably from this very spot. But only when I’m good enough to capture whatever it is that makes my soul open up every time I see it.
Guess which Australian author wrote these amazing lines?
If you guessed Kirsty Eagar, whose debut novel, Raw Blue won the Victorian Premier’s Award, give yourself a gold star. This is the opening to her new book, Night Beach. The sea and the effect it has on those who live in close proximity to it is a recurring theme of her books, the second of which was Saltwater Vampires, which used the hideous tale of the Batavia and its crew and passengers as a launching pad.
In Night Beach the scene is once again contemporary, and as in Raw Blue, features a tough independent girl who lives for surfing – and for an unobtainable boy. But Night Beach is an altogether darker experience for the reader than Raw Blue, mixing shadowy elements in with the uncompromising surfer-dude world. There are still bloody confrontations in the waves between local alpha males and the outsiders looking in, but Abbie faces a far more edgy relationship with Kane than Carly does with either Marty, the workplace Romeo or Ryan, the boy she really wants. There are more inexplicable moments of fear, more weirdness and unpredictability, and less promise of a happy resolution.
The writing has changed, too: In Raw Blue I can see the slightest hint of Puberty Blues, with its humour and down-to-earth descriptions brimming with physicality. Night Beach is altogether more unsettling, and will be appreciated by older teens and crossover readers.
Both books come from a well-populated area of Australian fiction where the beach and surfing culture play as big a part in the story as the characters themselves. Everyone knows about books such as Kathy Lette’s Puberty Blues and Tim Winton’s Breath, and rightly so, but there are many more books out there in Surf land worth a look.
Kirsty recommended these as a place to start:
Ocean Pearl and Starfish Sisters by CBCA award winner J C Burke. Starfish Sisters has been previously reviewed by us on Read Alert as ‘a thrilling ride.’
- Surf School and Surf Sisters by Laurine Croasdale, featuring four girls and the struggling surf school they’re trying to save.
Measuring Up by G J Stroud, described as a ‘modern day homage to Puberty Blues’.
And crossing into adult territory, Nine Parts Water by Emma Hardman, which looks at what happens to you once the fame bubble has burst.