Megan Abbott’s BURY ME DEEP – Thrice is confirmation.

November 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

Yet more beautiful cover art - Bury Me Deep, Megan Abbott

Yet more beautiful cover art – Bury Me Deep, Megan Abbott

When Marion Seeley’s disgraced husband leaves for a position abroad, she is unbearably lonely. Although he left her with a modest amount of money, accommodation and some new clothes, Dr Seeley was the only person she ever spent time with. Marion, who works as a medical administrative assistant, knows that if she doesn’t move beyond her comfort zone, she will be condemned to a life of loneliness. When Nurse Louise Mercer invites her for a girls’ night, Marion boldly accepts – even knowing Louise’s reputation as a relentless party animal. Louise and her roommate Ginny welcome Marion to their circle with open arms and suddenly, Marion has a family. Ginny has tuberculosis, but Louise is committed to providing her with the medication and care that she needs. Marion is moved by the girls’ devotion to one another, especially throughout the wild parties and impromptu gatherings that seem to be the norm at their house.

‘I can’t know what you mean, Louise. I can’t. Elsie’s an everyday girl like we are, I am, I don’t know what you are, I don’t know it now,” Marion said, feeling suddenly dizzy, feeling suddenly the prickly junipers bursting before her eyes, making her head quaky. Who were these women? she wondered. Who were they and what was she?

Louise introduces Marion to Gent Joe Lannigan, their friend and benefactor. Gent Joe runs a chain of pharmacies, and his generosity has saved Ginny’s life on more than one occasion. Marion they are entangled in a fiery affair.
Only peripherally aware of Louise and Ginny’s resentment of her closeness with Joe, Marion is stunned when Louise confronts her. When Ginny pulls a pearl-handled pistol from her lingerie drawer, Marion has no choice but to shoot the girls who took her in so willingly.

Marion, there are things you are sure you’d never do, Louise had said to her once. Until you have

What follows is so unexpected that I hesitate to describe it to you for fear that it would detract from the experience of reading the novel first-hand. The remainder of the book is concerned with the disposal of bodies, the covering up of two murders, the laying of blame and the path to redemption.

Pulp-style cover art for Bury Me Deep

Pulp-style cover art for Bury Me Deep

In BURY ME DEEP, as in DIE A LITTLE, Abbott brings the femme fatale to life. While DIE A LITTLE was concerned with which of the central women was the more powerful, BURY ME DEEP explores the concept in a little more depth. Initially, Marion is the shrinking violet to Louise and Ginny’s party-girl personas, but as the plot jack-knifes midway through the book, her psyche begins to unravel. Propped up by an unexpected source of support, Marion reconstructs herself. After the trauma of Louise and Ginny’s death and the complications of her affair with Gent Joe, there’s no way that she could remain the wallflower she was when her husband first left.

As a protagonist, I found Marion fascinating. She is aware of the fact that she is being corrupted from the inside out, but is also powerless to stop the process. Her self-awareness is the very same quality that allows her to build herself back up again and to enact elegant revenge against the person who most deserves it.

Marion also comes to appreciate and understand those who wronged her. I think it would undermine her strength to say that she simply forgives them for the danger they put her in – rather, she develops a kind of profound empathy for the people who have harmed her. One might even say she loves them.

“I look at you, Marion,” he said, “and all I see is death. I see dead girls and sorrow. It is not fair, but there it is. I can’t look at you without thinking of that night. Your beauty is blinding but behind it I see death.” 

While DIE A LITTLE transported the reader to the merry indulgence of the fifties, BURY ME DEEP makes plain the stark desperation of the thirties. Reading this book in an era of relative luxury made me realise just how much of an impact the Depression would have had on the everyday life of a woman my age in the thirties.
When Marion buys herself in a tiny bar of nougat and realises that this indulgence will cost her hot meals and shampoo for a week, I think I nearly had a heart attack. I am constantly impulse-purchasing, and I buy four to five books per week. How would I have survived the Depression if a single chocolate could have destroyed my self-sufficiency for an entire week (Answer: I wouldn’t have)?

Winnie Judd, The Trunk Murderess, 1931

Winnie Judd, The Trunk Murderess, 1931

BURY ME DEEP is inspired by the case of “The Trunk Murderess”. In October of 1931, the bodies of a girl and her roommate were discovered in a pair of trunks at a train station in LA. When a young doctor’s wife comes forward and turns herself in, she is saved in much the same way that Marion is. Abbott admits to having been forced to fictionalise those aspects of the story that historical evidence neglects, but by and large, BURY ME DEEP strongly resembles the reality of the tabloid sensation that was The Trunk Murderess’ crime. The fact that this book is based on the experiences of a real-life woman makes it a much more sobering tale than DIE A LITTLE.  The scene at the train station, where the contents of the infamous trunks is called into question, is actually quite sickening when you remember that there were once two bodies, two wild party girls brought to a horrific end, and transported in much the same way.

BURY ME DEEP is a much more sophisticated novel than DIE A LITTLE. This is to be expected, given that DIE A LITTLE was Abbott’s first, but the evolution of Abbott’s ability as a writer is enormously apparent.  Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence, three times is confirmation. If there was any chance that Megan Abbott’s DIE A LITTLE was a fluke, DARE ME allayed those doubts. And now, with BURY ME DEEP, I can confirm: Megan Abbott is one hell of a writer.

Want a copy of BURY ME DEEP? Contact Pulp Fiction Booksellers on (07) 3236-2750 if you’re in Brisbane. Alternatively, visit them online  and add them as a friend on Facebook.

Like the sound of Megan Abbott? Check out her website here, and read my reviews of DIE A LITTLE and DARE ME by clicking on the links.


A Rather Special Bookstore and a Particularly Excellent Book

August 7, 2013 § 8 Comments

Pulp Fiction - without doubt, my favourite book store.

Pulp Fiction – without doubt, my favourite book store.

In the heart of the city of Brisbane, there’s a small, hole-in-the-wall book store. Tucked away into a corridor of a busy train station, it has a fairly unassuming shop front which lures the dedicated reader in with a window full of eclectic posters and new releases. As you enter the quiet store, the floorboards will creak conspicuously. You’ll look around sheepishly, but the only other customer in the store is immersed in reading the blurb of the book they’re holding. They have not registered your entrance. There seems to be be yellow post-it notes hanging off the shelves just about everywhere you look, and you realise that the store is crowded with shelves and book stands. There’s probably a delivery box on the floor, and the smell of freshly printed books is everywhere. You’ll wander among the shelves and realise that there is a theme emerging amidst the selection of books in stock. There’s fantasy of every class, science fiction of every possibility, the most innovative of steampunk and unimaginable dystopian scenarios. There are lovely editions of the world’s best authors in each of these genres, and there are small, pulpy-looking copies of intriguing urban fantasy novels by authors you’ve never heard of. There are new releases so recent that you only just heard about them yesterday, and there are covers of novels that you’ve probably never seen before in Brisbane. And then there are those little yellow notes which adorn a surprising number of books. These are staff recommendations, and as you read them, you find yourself considering books and authors that you’ve never thought about reading before. You absently pull a book off the shelf as you wander to read another staff recommendation, which also sounds excellent, so you take that one off the shelves too. Slowly, you accumulate a pile of books. It never occurred to you not to buy to them.

Pulp Fiction is the reason not to pirate books. A small, genuine book store with palpable character and impressively knowledgeable staff, I never leave without buying a book I’m excited to read. Check them out here, and stop by when you’re in the city next. Just don’t go with an empty wallet.

The Shambling Guide to New York City

How amazing is this cover art?

It was on a trip to Pulp Fiction that I picked up a copy of Mur Lafferty’s novel, The Shambling Guide to New York City. I won’t lie – I chose it based mostly on the cover art. It called to me from the shelves – a pop-art drawing of a slightly hippie looking girl with a satchel bag and a notebook wandering the city streets while all manner of demons passed her by? Had to have it.

The Shambling Guide is Mur Lafferty’s official debut novel. It’s best described as humourous urban fantasy, with just a dash of well-placed romance. Travel book editor Zoe moves home to NYC after a disastrous affair with her old boss. She loves the city, and begins to find her feet again after the shock of finding out her ex was married the whole time. Desperate for a job, Zoe follows up an ad for a travel editor of an alternative publishing house. After forcing her way into an interview, Zoe’s determination deflates when she finds that the publishing house she’s about to start working for is run by a vampire and staffed by zombies, a Welsh death goddess, a water sprite and a frustratingly attractive incubus. These supernatural beings, who refer to themselves collectively as coterie, introduce Zoe to the other world that exists all around her. Zoe adjusts relatively well, and tries her best to learn what she can about the lives of the coterie. Everything’s looking up for her – that is, until a Frankenstein monster made with the head of an old flame is constructed with the intention of antagonising her.

Would pepper spray stop a zombie? A vampire? Those hedgehog-eating demon guys? And if those existed, what else was out there? Werewolves? She had forgotten to check the moon phase on the calendar. Ghosts? She’d have to keep an eye on any cemetery she passed. Banshees? Now everything about Britney Spears made sense.

Funny, smart and creative, The Shambling Guide to New York City is an excellent take on the “underworld in the city” theme that can so often be a downer. Zoe is someone I’d like to be friends with (and kind of feel like I am, now that I’m finished), and I want to visit the New York of the coterie. Zombies that get smarter with the quality of brains they consume, ravens that live on Wall Street and can exchange your currency for hell notes and demon cab drivers that may or may not take your fare in fingers are all residents of the shambling side of the city – who wouldn’t want to visit?

Anyone who has read my previous reviews will know that I have a tendency to sway toward the analytical when it comes to reading. I tend to pull out the subliminal-subconscious-subverted subtext of every book that crosses my path, and I find it kind of hard to not do this. This book, though, was pure fun. The Shambling Guide to New York City was also the first book in a long time that I’ve considered unputdownable. Every spare second I could find, my nose was wedged between its pages, devouring Zoe’s story like a zombie starved of brains. I’d been having a rough week, and this book was just the pick me up I needed. Five brains out of five for Mur’s The Shambling Guide to New York City. I impatiently await its sequel, The Ghost Train to New Orleans!

The Ghost Train to New Orleans

This cannot come quickly enough.

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