19.11.12

'The End of Everything' by Megan Abbott

I bought The End of Everything by Megan Abbott upon seeing it in the window of my local charity shop, having read about her newest novel, Dare Me, on The Million's Most Anticipated List back in July this year. Megan Abbott is an enormously well-regarded crime writer in many circles and I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.

The End of Everything, Abbott's sixth novel, is the fractured, complex story of Evie and Lizzie, two incredibly close teenage friends who do everything together until Evie suddenly disappears from their quiet suburban street. This horrific, life-changing occurrence leads Lizzie to question everything about the people around her, and also her relationship with Evie, given the unsavoury and confusing truths that steadily emerge.

I thought this book was beautifully, if  breathlessly, written, and captures the manic, deceptive confusion of Lizzie, the main character, who narrates the story to the reader in moment-to-moment retrospect both before and after Evie's disappearance. That same breathlessness has been a common feature of a few books I've read lately - namely, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman and Beside the Sea - so to my mind, considering the content of the other titles also, this type of heavily comma-ed, freely associating narration is becoming the mark of a female narrator drowning in their circumstance:
Voices pitchy, giddy, raving, we are all chanting that deathly chant that twists, knifelike, in the ear of the appointed victim. One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock, five o'clock...And it's Evie, she's it, lost at choosies, and now it will be her doom. But she's a good hider, the best I've ever seen, and I predict wild surprises, expect to find her rolled under a saggy front porch or buried under three inches of dirt in Mom's own frilly flower bed.
The characterisation in this book is great - the few primary characters are vivid and well-drawn - and the incessant darkness and slightly unreliable narration gave me a nightmare or two and drove the my morbid curiosity right through to the end. A great twist comes about two-thirds of the way through which sends the book off in an unexpected direction, and the revelations and final conclusion are all expertly handled. Abbott has a multitude of haunting and perceptive things to say about the burgeoning sexuality of teenage girls, sibling rivalry, the secrets of those closest to you, and also about the varying relationships that girls can have with their fathers.

This was a dark, immersive read which is beautifully written and fulfils its potential, but I was surprised to find that it left my psyche much sooner than anticipated. I'm keen to read other Megan Abbott books, having enjoyed this, but I may well donate this book to the charity shop where I found it as I feel no keen need to keep it near or to plan a re-read. I think it's probably fair to say that I respected it for its objective literary excellence, rather than took it to heart for its emotional impact, but it's a good book all the same.

Title: The End of Everything
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Picador
Date: 2011
Format: 246 pages, paperback, and I bought it.
 
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