About The Book
Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.
Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.
At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences…
Perfect for fans of The Virgin Suicides and Megan Abbott, this psychological thriller is the story of three girls who, over the course of one long hot summer, find their friendship pushed to a breaking point as one of them convinces herself that her thoughts can influence events in the world around them. As their love tips over into obsession and their naivety into wilful blindness all three girls wield more power than they could possibly ever have imagined, with devastating consequences.
Crushed by Kate Hamer is a slow burn of a book centred around the friendship of three teenage girls, Phoebe, Orla and Grace who live in Bath. It is a dark read with a pervading sense of menace but is a deeply satisfying one.
Written via a multi-person narrative (hurrah, my favourite) from the perspective of each of these young women, we are voyeurs in the intricate and sometimes tricky life of a female. Set in 2003, it is gloriously unencumbered by the technology that we take for granted nowadays and is a time before social media and smart phones which gives the book an almost otherworldly and innocent feel in someways. The friendship therefore is one built without the societal pressures that young people nowadays are subject to and so, the relationship between Phoebe, Orla and Grace feels organic and real.
This is a book about women and the relationships that they have with other women. Whether that be friendship, unrequited love or that of a mother and daughter, these facets are explored delicately and executed beautifully to create a compelling and immersive book. Phoebe is the centre point of the novel, it opens with her standing on a bridge, with torn tights and a lost shoe. She is agitated and jittery and a few minutes later a car crashes into a wall killing a pedestrian. She had been thinking about murder and murder happened, but did she cause it? She thinks she did, and that’s all that matters, because this is the crux of the book – Phoebe and the belief in her powers.
That’s not to say that Crushed is a supernatural book, it isn’t, it’s a clever novel that takes the concept of obsessive and hysterical behaviour of teen females and runs with it. Phoebe is a complicated character who lives in a beautiful house with her mother and QC father. The complications are born from her mother’s narcisstic and emotionally abusive behaviour which is an insidious presence in their home. As Phoebe’s story develops the reasons why she believes in some other power are clear; it is something which she can control in a world where she has no control. This combined with her friendship with Grace and Orla are the most significant things she possesses and as the two become inextricably linked the stakes are raised ever higher.
I really enjoyed the multi-person narrative and the different voices are strong and distinctive. Whilst Phoebe’s relationship with her mother is fractious, Orla and Grace find themselves in much different territory. Grace’s story is the most heartbreaking being a young carer for her mother who has MS. She is consumed by this task and life is a daily struggle but her one constant is that her mother loves her and she is safe. Orla is similarly loved but of course, the relationship between a mother and daughter is never easy and three viewpoints allow the reader to gain a deep understanding of these families.
I really enjoyed this book which was an immersive and observent read about the power of female relationships. It builds slowly, layer upon layer unfurling melancholy and menace until suddenly you realise that you’ve found yourself in deep water. Kate Hamer has built an intriguing world and has written teen girls and particularly their relationships and friendships brilliantly. This is a highly recommended read from me.
About The Author
Kate Hamer grew up in the West Country and Wales. She studied art and worked for a number of years in television. In 2011 she won the Rhys Davies short-story prize and her short stories have appeared in various collections. Her debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat was published in 2015. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Wales Book of the Year. It was followed by the acclaimed The Doll Funeral in 2017. Kate now lives with her husband in Cardiff.