Following the deaths of her dad and sister and her mum’s grief-fuelled descent into alcoholism, teenage Violet takes a place at Elm Hollow Academy. Here she becomes part of a group of friends – Robin, Alex and Grace – who have additional, secret lessons with art teacher Annabel. These lessons cover the history of the school – the site of some famous witch trials, mythology and magic. A sinister undertone runs throughout driven by the disappearance of Robin’s previous best friend, Emily, alongside the broader theme of violence against women. It’s a gripping, angry, terrifying ride; The Craft meets The Secret History in a run-down British seaside town.
I’m delighted Katie’s written more on the anger in the book and where it stemmed from. You can read her blistering piece below.
“Do you think this?”
She – a friend, a good friend – pointed to the page. It was my book, The Furies, in manuscript.
I felt an uneasiness settle over me. When our friends read us, they can’t help but place us in the pages; they’re the ones who find the traces of life between the words. It’s inevitable. I wondered what she’d seen; the piece of me she’d found.
She slid the page across the table. I glanced at it: a lecture, given by a female teacher in the book. Knew, immediately, what she was asking.
Are you this angry? Do you feel like this, too?
I hadn’t realised, when I was writing The Furies, that it was an angry book.
I know how that sounds. But for most of the time I was working on it, it had no title at all; my agent, Juliet, gave it the name, the day it went on submission. Before that, it was just a book about girls.
The book went out to publishers on 27th September 2017; it sold on the 28th.
Seven days later, the first of the Weinstein allegations would surface.
Seven days after that, #MeToo was all over the world.
Still, I didn’t realise I was angry. Didn’t realise I had been, all this time.
And yet, it’s a book made up of the stories of other, angry women. Women whose stories I hadn’t known, as a younger woman – but which I understood, nonetheless.
I hadn’t read Medea when I was nineteen, and my boyfriend cheated, while calling me “crazy” for thinking he would. I didn’t know about the woman who slit her children’s throats at her husband’s door, while he stood with his new wife.
Still, I knew that white hot, vivid rage well enough. I deleted everything on his laptop. Erased every trace of him from my life.
I didn’t know about Artemisia Gentileschi when I was twenty-two. When I sat with a friend who told me she couldn’t tell the police what had happened to her, because she couldn’t face the doubt. I didn’t know about the painter, tortured with thumbscrews as she faced down her rapist in court.
Still, I understood. I knew why my friend wouldn’t want to face that. We whispered the truth, instead.
I didn’t know Medusa’s curse was a punishment for her rape, when I was twenty-five. When a US politician – male, of course – said: “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Still, I knew the urge to turn a man to stone with a look. Still do.
Tales of female rage course through the culture like an undercurrent. We know them – we feel them, viscerally, somehow – and so, what’s been most fascinating about the #metoo movement is the idea that our anger is something new.
There’s a sense of surprise – shock, even! – at the very notion that we might simply have been smiling through gritted teeth; that we might have been polite for our own safety.
It still echoes. Still tries to neutralise the stories; tries to make us doubt our own experience.
And sometimes, it works.
So when my friend asked: “do you think this?” I stumbled over my words. Shrugged it off. Felt ashamed at being seen, at being angry: at being that girl.
I admit this, because it takes some getting used to. It’s uncomfortable. Scary. It involves a kind of exposure.
It felt – still feels, sometimes – like presenting oneself up to be devoured. Like the very act of reading, and of engaging with, those things that make us angry, is a kind of self-sacrifice. A harm. And yet, now, doesn’t it feel necessary?
A caveat: I’m not advocating for murder, or curses, or any of the things that go on in The Furies. It’s not an instruction book. These girls aren’t role models.
It’s fiction. It’s meant to thrill. To scare. To entertain.
But I am owning the rage that inspired it.
Maybe it takes time to come to anger. Maybe it’s a gradual conversion.
And maybe it’s easier, now, among a movement: when the New York Times warns Trump to beware the Furies. When the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford is, at last, viewed as a kind of heroism. When Beyoncé makes albums filled with both rage and vulnerability, and the world bows down.
Whatever it is, I’ve made it. I’m here, at last. I am angry.
I own my rage, alongside the women – both real and imagined – who do the same.