Sunday, May 26, 2013

Harriet Said... by Beryl Bainbridge

This short novel was inspired by some elements of the Parker-Hulme murder case, the same schoolgirl murder plot that inspired the movie Heavenly Creatures starring Kate Winslet.

Two schoolgirls, aged thirteen and fourteen, living in the little English seaside town of Formby in the years after World War II, develop an obsession with an unhappily married middle-aged man. When the unnamed narrator thinks she is in love with him, Harriet, the pretty, precocious leader of the pair, decides this could add up to a good experience and her friend docilely follows wherever she leads. They hide outside his house at night and spy on him and his wife. When his wife is away, the visit him and witness firsthand his weakness and humiliation.

I’ve read a few novels by Ms. Bainbridge over the years, all except this one long before I began keeping this blog, her books are generally brief, sometimes too much so, and not to everyone’s taste. I mainly read this one because I was curious about the connection to the Parker-Hulme case. Unless you’re primary interest is the psychological relationship between the girls, the dominance of one and the docility of the other, there’s really nothing very remarkable or sensational here. I can’t say I really enjoyed the book, but I didn’t hate it either, it was ultimately just a quick read.

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