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Fury by Shirley Marr

review by Marlyn MacDonald

Fury by Shirley MarrMy name is Eliza Boans and I am a murderer.
I know. It’s pretty shocking, huh?
To think I actually had a better surname before my parents divorced and my mother went back to her maiden name...But seriously... I didn’t just wake up one morning and say to myself, “what a lovely day, I think I might go out and kill someone.”

Fury is the debut novel of Shirley Marr, an ‘accountant by day and masked writer by night’.  The first-person narrator, Eliza Boans, is in jail being questioned about her involvement in a murder.  Eliza is a spoiled, superficial, rich but neglected teenager living in a gated community and attending a high status private school.  Eliza is witty, insolent, intelligent, vulnerable – and somehow implicated in this appalling incident.  The anthropologist/ interrogator draws from her the story of the petty dramas of school life for Eliza and her three best girlfriends, and how the girls gradually evolve into something other than their individual selves.  Eliza is the central character, the storyteller and the voice of this novel.  Marr explains that she was at a loss as a writer until she found Eliza:

You know how they say that everyone has one story inside of them? No matter what I wrote it would always come down to the same situation and ending, it was like being trapped in this perpetual writer’s groundhog day! They ranged from slightly gothic horror to the modern, the only thing they had in common, apart from being the same story is that they weren’t ever any good. That was until I found Eliza.

It would be interesting from the point of view of aspiring writers to ask Marr how she did find the voice of Eliza, a stand-up comic voice replete with the conventions of oral comedy: deliberate verbal red herrings, asides, repetitions, careful timing, punchlines, one liners. To me, Marr’s character Eliza is a modern and very upmarket version of Kylie Mole, Mary-Anne Fahey’s schoolgirl character in The Comedy Company back in the late eighties.  Eliza is the leader of her friendship group, and part of what keeps them together is their rivalry with other girl groups.  Eliza uses her wit and sarcasm to attack other individuals and groups, but also to keep her own friends loyal to her.  The escalating tension in the story owes at least as much to the challenge for leadership of her group and raids from other groups on her group members as it does to the usual teenage problems of sexual angst and parental incompetence. Like Kylie Mole, Eliza is initially more concerned with the politics of the friendship groups, and with maintaining control, than with any other issues.

Fury is also reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, her debut novel in 1992, a book about a group of isolated university students studying the classics.  Their studies of Greek tragedy mirror the tragic events they bring on themselves, partly due to a desire to transcend ordinary reality.  That same feeling, of students in an isolated, slightly artificial institution getting caught up / obsessed with/ taken over by primeval emotions/ pagan deities pervades Fury.  In Fury, Marr uses the interrogator, Dr. Fadden, who is interested in the influence of myth and superstition on human behaviour, to highlight the theme of women’s primeval anger. On the cover of Fadden’s notebook is a picture of three ‘Greek chthonic deities’, women with snakes for hair, the Furies of Vengeance.

Fury contains a profusion of other cultural, literary and real life references.  The characters mention news items about girls and women in their city who have been raped, murdered and their bodies left in ditches.  The story’s media recognition factor helps to keep us reading and accepting the reality of the events even as the behaviour of this group of girls gets more erratic and extreme. Eliza’s voice is crucial to the flow of the novel; at once a smart-ass and an intelligent girl whose favourite subject is English, she draws us in.  We get to know her and to like her in all her complexity; she is humourous, serious, fierce, caring.  With her ability to evade the question of what actually happened, we relax and allow ourselves to get swept along, and hope that Eliza and her friends are not guilty of the acts that are being attributed to them.

The device of having a youngish male anthropologist interviewing her, while not completely believable in terms of standard police procedures, does work well to establish a structure to propel the story forward.  Dr. Fadden asks a question; Eliza remembers a whole chunk of the past; Fadden brings her a coffee, asks another question, she obligingly recounts more episodes. Eventually, he has to up the ante, taking her out for a cheeseburger, taking her to see her friend in the hospital. Each memory comes up in chronological order, but seems random, due to Eliza’s quirky voice, and the connection being made in the present time between Fadden, the curious student of human ‘furies’ and the embodiment of fury herself.  Fadden appears to be protecting her against her mother, and against the ‘real’ policemen.  Eliza begins to trust him.

Fury is categorized as Young Adult fiction.  One of the advantages of the YA tag is that the author can mix and match genres as she likes. Written in first person present, ‘Fury’ has the verve and immediacy of YA, the concern with fashion, dating and contemporary pop culture of chicklit, the terror and psychological suspense of gothic horror, with a smidgeon of romance thrown in for good measure.  In movie terms, Fury is Mean Girls meets Romper Stomper at Picnic at Hanging Rock.

My fourteen year old loves the cover, a photo of a ‘rang-er’ (redhead) girl with a black eye-mask.  She thinks it would be a cool book to read.  Part of me would like her to read it as a cautionary tale; another part wants to protect her. Maybe when she’s sixteen.  In the meantime, for students of writing, ‘Fury’ is an excellent example of a confessional, and a demonstration of the importance of voice / character.  Blog reviewers call it a teen psychological thriller.  I think Fury can hold its own in any age group.

Fury is a great read, cleverly balancing humour and some very serious themes.  We can only hope Shirley Marr’s masked writer persona gradually takes over and she creates more novels for us to enjoy.

About the Author

Marlyn MacDonaldMarlyn MacDonald lives in Toowoomba, where she lives with her youngest child and works as a Community Economic Development consultant focusing on multicultural, Sudanese and Indigenous groups. Originally from Canada, Marlyn raised her three children on a property in southwestern Queensland.  Watch for her upcoming blog at, scheduled to go online any day now!

You can read Marlyn's short story 'Eyebrows' in the 09:04 issue of Perilous Adventures by clicking here.

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