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Review: Fury by Shirley Marr

fury shirley marr Review: Fury by Shirley Marr

East Rivermoor, the suburb in which Shirley Marrs debut Fury is set, is a transplanted medina, a walled suburb set apart from its urban relatives both geographically and socially. It is a utopia in Moores ironic sense of the word: a place that exists nowhere, and indeed, this seems to be the case given that it exists in a sort of locational stasis, unencumbered by landmarks that might mark it as a pocket of a familiar city with a series of social mores and norms to help the reader settle in. No, I evoke the notion of a medina because, like many of these walled cities, it is labyrinthine, complex, amoral to an outsider.

Law and order do not exist in East Rivermoor in the way that we outsiders might expect, and neither do motivations, actions, and consequences link together in a cogent, normative way. We are given newspaper articles and television footage addressing the murders of those beyond the borders of East Rivermoor: Marr elucidates these as being the natural consequence of stepping beyond the boundaries of the estate. In contrast, East Rivermoor itself is a haven of lawlessness and unabashed cruelty and hedonism, but there seem to be no consequences to such indulgences. Its an eerie notion, and Marr explores it to its frankly frightening end in this book.

East Rivermoor, for all its beauty and wealth, is a place of facades and charades; it is a place where little heed is given to misdoings unless they overtly threaten ones sense of face. Living in East Rivermoor is indeed itself a veneer of acceptability. But the lawlessness that I have noted characterises this suburb is in part, I think, due to its hollowness. Few adults are ever present, and this in addition to the island-like setting of the walled suburb gives this book very much a Lord of the Flies sensibility. Where we do have adults, they are notably, deliberately absent: protagonist Elizas mother, for example, is a lawyer who is almost invariably away travelling, an irony that only highlights the moral abjection of the circumstances in which she has left her daughter. Interestingly, Eliza at first appears to be the yin to her mothers yang, fighting order where her mother appears to be seeking its reintroduction. Eliza is fierce, uncapitulating, venomous (okay, so perhaps these are euphemisms for her being, frankly, an utter bitch), and at first the reader cant helped by overwhelmed by the maelstrom of her personality. Her narrative is dervish-like, confronting, unrelenting, and its a brutal experience.

But as the narrative, which is written in a sort of back-and-forth disynchronous style, progresses, we come to realize that Eliza is not necessarily positioned as a protagonist (or as antagonist to her mother), but as more of a literary construct; her role is altogether different from what one might expect of a main character. The books title, of course, refers to the archetypal sisters of vengeance (the Roman names of which are remarkably similar to those of Eliza and her friends), who will pursue the perpetrators of wrongdoing, particularly those who have wronged against women, without mercy and, apparently, without fatigue. Bearing this in mind, the medina-esque setting of East Rivermoor can easily be seen as a metaphor for Virgils underworld, in which the furies were said to have resided (perhaps the name East Rivermoor is an oblique reference to the River Styx, too).

But where I feel that Marrs furies, a frankly awful trio of teen girls, depart from the historical sense is in that they dont simply pursue male wrongdoers (although one particular incident along these lines does indeed become the horrifying crux of the novel), but rather anyone and everyone. This is aided and abetted by the slippery morality of East Rivermoor and the lazy approach to discipline and conduct seen within the girls school: Marr seems to be suggesting a shift away from collective responsibility and towards that of the individual, and points out the tremendously problematic consequences that can result from this. Marr herself has suggested that Fury is a nod towards Camuss The Outsider, which I reviewed just the other day, but Id disagree, given that Camuss Mersault does not relishhis apparent depravity, or seek to torment others in the way that Marrs characters do: his transgressions are more to do with a lack of awareness of the point of social norms than the unbridled desire to tear them down by whatever means necessary. Marr does, of course, suggest that serious transgressions require an individual to step beyond stifling social constructions in some way: her characters, after all, do not truly begin to revolt until they transform themselves using masks and costumes. Interestingly, however, its also suggested that costumes are also a way for others to look upon them as being outside the rules and norms of society: Eliza muses again and again over what she and her friends were wearing during an event where one of them is horrifically attacked.

But Marr does not suggest that her society is entirely without law. Eliza and her friends, for example, when confiding in the school counsellor about the horrific incident in question, are deliberately evasive and avoidant, ensuring (perhaps deliberately?) that no serious action is taken by the school, thus giving them tacit permission to carry out their own punishment.

Youve by now (probably rather frustratedly) noticed that Ive rather deliberately avoided recounting the plot to Fury, as, like Robert Cormiers I am the Cheese (see my review) this novel has a sort of circular, braided plot that needs to be allowed to build in piecemeal fashion before building to its brutal climax, and it would be cruel of me to give it away. Fury is a tormenting, visceral read; the prose veritably lashes at you, and the unmitigated venom and hatred (with self-directed or externally directed) or the characters makes for an astonishingly bleak read. While there are definitely weaknesses to Furythe first fifty pages or so are punishingly overwritten and rambly, and there are some plot elements, such as the police station scenes, that lack veracitytheres no doubt that youll find yourself pondering this book late into the night. I have a feeling that Marr will provide us with some interesting food for thought in the future, and suspect that shes an author to watch.

Rating: star Review: Fury by Shirley Marrstar Review: Fury by Shirley Marrstar Review: Fury by Shirley Marrblankstar Review: Fury by Shirley Marrblankstar Review: Fury by Shirley Marr

With thanks to Black Dog Books for the review copy.

Visit Shirley Marrs website.

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  1. Fury intrigues me in its classic references and because the city seems to be almost a character itself, the way you describe it. But at the same time, it sounds darker and more labyrinthine than I can handle right now! Perhaps next time Im looking for a book like this one, Ill check Fury out.
    Erin recently posted..Thoughts on 'Revolution' by Jennifer Donnelly

  2. Stephanie /

    Thanks for visiting, Erin. Im still mulling over this book. It definitely offers a lot of food for thought, and Im still startled by how harsh and dark it was. Its very unsettlingdefinitely not a light read by any means!

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