May 27

The Furies by Mandy Beaumont

If, for some strange reason, you happen to see me in real life and you think I look decidedly like someone who has been dragged through a hedge backwards, I haven’t. I’ve just read The Furies.

This book is ferocious and in the words of Elvis Presley, I am all shook up, still, having finished it a week ago. Reading it, your heart will break and you’ll feel numb with sadness. You’ll want to stop but you just can’t and so you hang on every word in the vain hope that it will be alright in the end.

The Furies is the story of Cynthia. It’s a tale of tragedy and despair and of course there may be glimmer of hope in there, but it seems I missed that page. The fury part I definitely got. Clear. Ear splittingly loud.

On the eve of Cynthia’s 16th birthday, her mother is taken away by the police after murdering Cynthia’s sister, Mallory. Shortly after, her father leaves without a word abandoning Cynthia in a town where the only work prospects are at the Abbottoir or the street corner. The land is dry and desperate, so are the people. It is a place where dreams go to whither and die.

Wherever Cynthia goes in town, the story of her mother follows. She was the wild harlot woman who went insane and people treat Cynthia as the mini version. There is no escape for her – try as she might to find normalcy and safety. As life in the far north Queensland outback town darkens and grows more bleak, strange and elusive female voices start surrounding and guiding Cynthia. Are these the voices her mother heard before she was taken away in handcuffs and who the hell are they?

The voices are echoes of the furious women who have been battered and beaten by men. By life. By it all. They swirl around Cynthia like willy-winds, getting louder, stronger. As she tries to live quietly and avoid the men scorning her, more voices arrive and the cacophony of waling from across the ages raging and raging grows.

Look, yes, it’s a bit crazy-making to be honest but in the madness you’ll recognise the voices and the stories. We’ve heard them all before. They never change sadly. Wherever Cynthia walks, they walk behind her, cheering her and urging her to stand up, and then one day, Mallory’s small voice emerges from the choir and Cynthia exhales and knows what to do.

If Charlotte Wood and Margaret Atwood had an offspring, it would be Mandy Beaumont.She is a powerhouse writer – the sort who literally can make you feel like your heart’s stopped as you read and you have to remind yourself to breathe. It sounds like a tough one to tackle and look, I know, we’ve had more than our fair share of despair over the past two years, but The Furies is worth it, I promise. Do it for Cynthia.

But that’s just my two cents worth.