Sunday Territorian 14 Feb 2016
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Art beat A LEARNING EXPERIENCE Finding her university years a rich source of material, Kirsty Eagar has turned them in to a novel that will strike a chord with all graduates and social media fans Kirsty Eagars fourth novel examines university life and the effects of social media Eagar says. She relished writing vigorous dialogue exchanges between Jess and Mitchell, channelling the writing style of 19th century literary icon Jane Austen. Through their love story, Eagar balances a cutting exploration of contemporary sexual relationships with the ugly and exploitative behaviour that can occur at university. I had so much fun with the dialogue, I hope it jumps off the page, because that is what I remember about university all the great talks we would have, she says. Jess is experiencing the sheer joy of her exchanges with Mitchell, but the problem is that she thinks this guy has a sexist attitude. After Eagar graduated with a masters in economics at UQ she travelled to London to work in the financial industry, but quickly became disillusioned with that world. After meeting her future husband, Jason, she decided to pursue a career she felt passionate about writing. A keen reader since childhood, Eagars first book, 2009s Raw Blue, won the 2010 Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Young Adult fiction. Summer Skin is her fourth novel, with her third, 2012s Night Beach, short-listed for the Queensland Literary Awards. Raw Blue was a quiet novel, but it became a word-of-mouth book. It covered the issue of sexual assault and Carlys recovery, says Eagar who, like Raw Blue character Carly, is a keen surfer. Eagar began writing Summer Skin in 2012 and over two years returned three times to Brisbane to research the UQ St Lucia campus, along with old social haunts such as The Royal Exchange Hotel and the Fortitude Valley nightclub scene. Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar is published by Allen and Unwin, $20 BOOKED IN REVIEWS BLANCHE CLARK, SHELEY ORCHARD FICTION Fear is the Rider Kenneth Cook, Text Publishing, $20 Before Wolf Creek there was Kenneth Cook delivering chilling outback tales. His most famous was his 1961 novel Wake in Fright, based on his time as a journalist in Broken Hill. Cook died in 1987 and the manuscript for this book was recently discovered among his papers. The decision to publish the novells is a welcome one, for its another great retro thriller. John Shaw is a recently graduated landscape architect, taking the desert route from Sydney to a job interview in Adelaide. He meets freelance photojourno Katie Alton in a pub and finds out shes about to travel the 600km Obiri Track in a Land Cruiser. He foolishly decides to follow her in his tiny Honda Civic. Soon they are being pursued by a madman determined to kill them for the hell of it. Cook cranks up the tension bit by bit. Verdict: Outback hell. FICTION The Darkest Secret Alex Marwood Sphere, $30 I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her familys holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th... Coco is three years old. So begins Marwoods third psychological thriller. The acid flows freely in this account of a lost girl and the adults who should have taken better care. Sean Jackson has planned a 50th birthday party in a house he has renovated. His friends are appalling selfcentred narcissists set on swilling down the best alcohol and drugs. There are half a dozen children; siblings, steps and halves, all casually neglected. Tragedy waits. Fastforward 12 years to Jacksons death and there are more children, but a different dynamic. Verdict: A cautionary tale. FICTION The Things We Keep Sally Hepworth Macmillan, $30 Melbournes Sally Hepworth was inspired to write this after hearing about young people with Alzheimers. The prose is simple at times, sentimental but she conjures up the assisted-living facility, Rosalind House, and the ensemble of characters that inhabit it. There are two main characters, Anna, 39, who has Alzheimers, and Eve, who has been forced to get a job as a cook and cleaner at Rosalind after her husbands Ponzi scheme is exposed and he commits suicide. Eve is drawn to Anna and finds herself flouting rules to help her relationship with Luke, 41, suffering frontotemporal dementia, flourish. The US setting adds little, other than appealing to the American market. Its Anna who makes it special. Verdict: Tender. PROUDLY SPONSORED BY 1/30 SMITH STREET M K irsty Eagar always felt the years she spent as a student at the University of Queensland would one day inspire a novel. Now the former economist at the Bank of England in London has finally realised her long-held ambition with her fourth novel, Summer Skin, which covers the seminal period in peoples lives when meaningful relationships, along with social and career paths, are forged. Theres not that many university novels around and its one of the most interesting times in your life because theres such a big transition, says Eagar, 43, who now lives on Sydneys northern beaches. For most people its their first time living away from home and its a pretty crazy environment. You are sharing your home with 300 other people. You are making your own decisions and some of them are not good ones. It can be a confusing time. You also forget how fun and fearless you are back then. Eagar experienced culture shock when, as a teenager, she arrived at the UQ campus from her familys cattle farm, 35km north of Rockhampton near St Lawrence. In Summer Skin, protagonist Jess Gordon is also from Rockhampton and studying economics, but unlike Jess, Eagar attended university in the early 1990s well before the rise of social media. Eagar says she was drawn to write Summer Skin in order to cover the effects of social media on peoples lives and intimate relationships. Peoples private lives are on display in social media in an edited way, she says. Social media is like another social layer on the whole fishbowl experience of university life. FIONA PURDON Everybody knows what is going on with everybody and theres no privacy. On social media you are always feeling you are being judged, which is a lot of pressure and if you stuff up, you feel vulnerable. The novel begins when Jess, who lives at the all-girl Unity campus, becomes part of a revenge plan against the all-male Knights college. This is after one Knights resident compromised a Unity resident at the previous years intercollegiate toga party and a picture of the incident went viral on social media. It was during the toga party that Jess first met fellow student Mitchell Crawford and their witty exchange saw sparks fly. Jess is the person I would like to have been. Wouldnt it be nice to be as witty as Jess? Eagar says. I was a little bit more unsure of myself while Jess knows where she is going. I lived in a co-ed college, so I didnt experience the gender divide that Jess does. Jess and Mitchell, a rugby player, immediately click, despite their different backgrounds. Also, Jess is unaware of Mitchells mysterious past he spent a year away from university following a drink-driving tragedy involving a friend. Mitch is a real boys club member, but I had to crack him open in some way, so he comes back to his old world with fresh eyes. He is still recovering from the (drink-driving) incident, which has an element of shame and trauma, Peoples private lives are on display in social media in an edited way 26 FRONTIER ART & BOOKS SUNDAY FEBRUARY 14 2016 NTNE01Z01MA - V1