Book review: On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

A dolphin rocks up in the bay of an impoverished Irish village in the hot summer of 1976, transforming the lives of the local community. For the adults, it’s a chance to cash in, selling ice creams and boat trips but for Emer it’s a chance to connect with a wild creature, a means of escape from her restricted life at home – and a link to local badboy loner Seth “Dog” Cullen. She lives for her midnight visits to the beach with her friends, when the tourists have gone home and they can swim with “their dolphin” in peace. But the village’s good fortune enrages kids from the upmarket town nearby and a bitter feud rips the two communities apart. Emer, Dog and their friends find themselves trapped in the crossfire.

An undercurrent of threat and violence runs throughout

Although the story is based on an Irish legend, On Midnight Beach feels gritty and real and although it’s soaked in the hot, stifling details of the summer of ’76 (tarmac melting, plagues of ladybirds, water rationing) it’s modern, fresh and compelling. I started the book slowly and hesitantly because I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The book starts with a shock – the scene of a local girl being mauled by a dog, and Seth Cullen taking drastic action to stop it. It’s an isolated incident but it sets the tone. An undercurrent of threat and violence runs throughout the story, filling you with unease as you read. There are other themes too – like masculinity, toxic or otherwise, loyalty to pointless causes and feeling trapped in the life your family and community expect of you – something all teenagers and many adults can relate to. The characters are what keep you reading on though, especially Emer and Dog, the noble outsider who becomes a natural leader.

I was desperate to find out what was going to happen, but knew deep down that this kind of feud escalates, and unless Emer can stop the fighting, there’s only one way it can end…

You can buy On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick here

Or find out about the book I’m writing here

Foul is Fair: blood, vengeance and death by Macbeth

I nearly called this post We need to talk about Foul is Fair, but I didn’t because the “we need to talk about” headline has been done to absolute death. However, cliches aside: we need to talk about Foul is Fair.

Cover of foul is fair by Hannah Capin a bold yellow cover featuring a sharp lipstick with a bloody fingerprint on it

There have been myriad novels about rape culture in American society, about how complacent, entitled alpha males are feted and worshipped and get away with anything while the victim shoulders the blame. From Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive to the uplifting The Nowhere Girls. But this book is different. It’s savage and relentless, just as these men often are. It sets aside the feelings of shame, trauma, self-blame and fear that rape survivors often experience and focuses on one emotion alone: rage.

It focuses on one emotion alone: rage

Like many girls before her, Jade Khanjara is raped at a party by a group of popular boys. This is not the first time they’ve done something like this, they have every intention of doing it again, and nobody is about to stop them. This time, however they’ve picked on the wrong person.

Instead of running to the police or going through therapy, Jade decides to kill the boys and everyone who helped them. She paints her nails, cuts her hair and, with the aid of her three loyal and lethal girlfriends, plots to bring them down.

The title is drawn from Macbeth, and what follows is a feminist revision of Shakespeare’s tragedy, with Jade as Lady Macbeth and her three best friends as the coven of witches who mess with Macbeth’s mind and manipulate him into murdering his closest friends. Each killing is just as grisly as the Shakespeare original, but will Jade, like Lady Macbeth before her, lose her mind with the horror of what she’s done?

This time they’ve picked on the wrong person

Foul is Fair is hypnotically written, slick, elegant and stylised. It’s not for everyone – if you’re looking for nuance, comic relief and realistic murder scenarios this ain’t the place. (The bit where she tells her parents that she’s planning to kill her attackers and they pretty much say “cool, what do you need from us?” was especially unlikely.) But it also speaks to the rage inside us all – the anger we feel when it happens to us or a loved one, or even hearing about stories like the Chanel Miller case. What Jade does is morally dubious to say the least, but thrilling. The concept gets you thinking, and talking and asking difficult questions long after you’ve turned the last page.

Fair is Foul by Hannah Capin is out now. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Lucky me, I received a complimentary early reading copy from the publisher, Penguin.