Jennifer Egan The New York Times Book Review A striking, ambitious first novel...Hooper forces open her material so that it resonates beyond itself, and she does this with...curiosity and instinctive grace.
Vince Passaro O The Oprah Magazine A brilliant, seductive, and unnerving first novel of sexual betrayal and murder...Hooper's novel is so tightly woven, so sophisticated, so full of sharp psychological truth and complex emotional and sexual life that you really have trouble believing it could be anyone's first book.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer A stunning, literate debut that combines a taut story and a unique structure...It is Hooper's prowess and her keen grasp of human psychology that make the book so rewarding.
The New Yorker A witty and unsettling meditation on innocence and experience.
The Wall Street Journal Ironic, moving, full of keen perceptions and striking sentences...a tour de force.
Kate Byrne, a primary-school teacher in Tasmania, is having an affair with the father of one of her students. But even as she obligingly plays the part of the slutty young mistress, she waits, like a child, to be punished; her lover's wife has just written a highly colored account of a local sex crime, and Kate is convinced that the older woman means to harm her. Hooper's first novel is at once suspenseful and self-conscious; crammed with fragments of animal fables, erotic fantasies, deaths remembered and foretold, it becomes a witty and unsettling meditation on innocence and experience. There is a deliberate cheekiness to Kate's conflation of sex and violence, and yet her litany of gruesome possibilities brings to mind a child's incantation, an attempt to ward off the darkness.
From a young Australian comes this darkly comic debut starring Kate Byrne, a 22-year-old fourth-grade teacher at Endport Primary in Tasmania. One of Kate's favorite students is Lucien Marne, whose precociousness and premature cynicism make him an outsider in class. He greatly resembles his father, Thomas, a well-to-do lawyer with whom Kate is having a passionate affair. After Thomas's urbane wife, Veronica, publishes a creepy children's book, Murder at Black Swan Point, strange things begin to happen to Kate. In her book, Veronica inserts cute Australian animal characters into a gruesome plot based on a real-life crime: teenager Eleanor Siddell worked as an assistant to veterinarian Graeme Harvey; the older man seduced Eleanor, who easily succumbed to his charms. Allegedly, when Graeme's wife discovered their secret trysts, she murdered the girl and disappeared, leaving her abandoned car atop Suicide Cliffs. Now, in the wake of increasingly disturbing events the failure of her car's brakes, Lucien's violent drawings Kate suspects that perhaps Veronica wrote the book as a warning, or maybe even a plan of action. Kate's paranoia leads her to distrust everyone, including herself. The writing, though frequently excellent, is compromised by the book's overall feeling of disorganization. Kate displays a level of sophistication unlikely for a 22-year-old who's just striking out on her own she tosses off such observations as "perhaps all perversity comes gift-wrapped, so to speak, in the banal" and far too many pages are devoted to her musings on Eleanor's murder. Hooper's wicked, sexy tale nevertheless proves she is a writer of great promise. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
An erotic and creepy debut about an Australian teacher who tempts fate by sleeping with the father of one of her students. In a small town in Tasmania, the just-out-of-college Kate Byrne is carrying on an affair with Thomas, the distant and rather callous father of Lucien, a member of Kate's fourth-grade class. Besides the usual worries about discovery, Kate is increasingly preoccupied with Thomas's wife, Veronica, who has just published a true crime book called Murder at Black Swan Point, about a case whose similarities to Kate's situation are more than a little troubling: a mother who discovers that her husband is having an affair with the younger woman who works at his clinic-and has sometimes watched after their kids-kills the adulteress and then disappears. Kate is concerned also about Lucien, a gifted and almost preternaturally wise child whose writing and drawings are full of anger and death-perhaps brought on by his presumably cold home life and Veronica's grisly research. Disagreeing with many of the conclusions in Veronica's book, Kate spends time imagining her own version, hers told by indigenous animals and targeted at children-with fanciful little shards of this story slotted in between the novel's increasingly claustrophobic and surreal chapters. Hooper-a confident if occasionally show-offy first-timer-doesn't provide much forward movement; the narrative progresses mostly in Kate's head as memories of her own past blur into her imaginings of other people's pasts and presents. At first, it's difficult to see why Kate would ever willingly thrust herself into such a precarious position, setting herself up to be dealt with in a bloody fashion by a murder-obsessed Veronica, butHooper deftly manuevers the reader to Kate's fragile point of view, with its obsessions-killing, writing-that are reminiscent of Susanna Moore's In the Cut. Sometimes a bit heavy on the atmosphere but nonetheless an affecting thriller that mixes just the right gothic chills with erotically charged suspense.