Perfections, Kirstyn McDermott
Twelfth Planet Press, 2014
Sometime around when I first started getting involved with the Australian spec fic scene, I told myself I needed to get my head above my comfortable reading parapet and venture to new parts of the imagination. This blog was a part of doing this. I only half kept my promise. I never read or reviewed horror. That was because I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to descriptions of violence, bodily fluids and guts being slung about and also because I am an idiot. Good horror of course goes beyond such things.
Last year at the Aurealis, I chatted with Jason Nahrung (an Australian horror writer) and told him about my horror reading conundrum. He told me, ‘Read Perfections. It is psychological horror and reads like literary fiction and even if you hate the horror, you’ll like the beautiful language.’ When Kirstyn’s novel was re-published as a physical print I took him up on his promise. I was not disappointed.
From the blurb:
Two sisters. One wish. Unimaginable consequences.
Not all fairytales are for children.
Antoinette and Jacqueline have little in common beyond a mutual antipathy for their paranoid, domineering mother, a bond which has united them since childhood. In the aftermath of a savage betrayal, Antoinette lands on her sister’s doorstep bearing a suitcase and a broken heart. But Jacqueline, the ambitious would-be manager of a trendy Melbourne art gallery, has her own problems – chasing down a delinquent painter in the sweltering heat of a Brisbane summer. Abandoned, armed with a bottle of vodka and her own grief-spun desires, Antoinette weaves a dark and desperate magic that can never, ever be undone.
Their lives swiftly unravelling, the two sisters find themselves drawn into a tangle of lies, manipulations and the most terrible of family secrets.
Jason was right. I loved the language, but I also found myself enjoying more than that. From the big things like a story set firmly in Australia (I used to think the spec fic scene was awash with only European and American settings, which is true to an extent, but since writing myself I have found a lot of brilliant Australian writers with the seeds for their stories planted in parts of Australia. Kirstyn is another to add to the list), an outcast goth sister who I could relate to, hard truths about feminism, gender politics, sexuality and careers which didn’t make me want to murder the author and creepy plot twists that I didn’t see coming to the small things like an Emilie Autumn shout out (seriously guys, Opheliac is one of the greatest songs ever) and pockets of prose that sing like good poetry. This story has the added bonus of being accessible to both genre and non-genre readers, being planted firmly in the real world with relationship trauma and family ties and fractures explored, even as magic plays a part in the horror that unfolds.
I really enjoyed this novel of dark desires and bitter spells and hope that I can find my kindle after a spell State-side so that I can download Madigan’s Mine and the Aurealis winning short story collection, Caution: Contains Small Parts also by McDermott.
You can purchase Perfections through the Twelfth Planet Press website here. You can also find Kirstyn’s work on e-reader.
Perfections: 4.5/5 inky stars