What The Blurb Says:
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.
What I Say:
We all remember our teenage years, when it was so important to belong, to feel that we were part of a group. It is that time in our lives when we were not children, not yet adults, but we were stuck, unable to make that leap, at times frustrated by our parents, who continued to impose limits while we were desperate for the first chance of freedom.
Phoebe, Orla and Grace are three friends, trying to navigate their way through the tangled rites of passage that the teenage years bring. Phoebe is the beautiful and seemingly powerful leader of the group, Orla is overweight and trying to find her self and her sexuality and is also completely in love with Phoebe, while Grace is a full time carer to her mother who has MS.
All three girls have complicated relationships with their mothers. Phoebe is at the mercy of her overwhelming and controlling mother, who wants to make sure Phoebe does nothing without her say so. Orla is frustrated by her seemingly naive and nervous mother, who does not want her to be anything other than the nice heterosexual daughter she can spend time with. Grace is single handedly doing everything for her mother, and her Mum is totally reliant on Grace, both of them only want to stay together in their flat.
So far, so what? A group of teenage girls with different family situations. Haven’t we read about this a thousand times before?
Maybe you have, but in Crushed, Kate Hamer has taken these three teenage girls, and added a simmering sense of unease right from the very first page.
For me, the title, Crushed, was about how each of the group slowly buckles under the weight of expectation and the claustrophobia that steadily engulfs them. It is about the excruciating tension being a part of such a tight teenage group brings, especially with Phoebe at its core.
When they start to study Macbeth in their English class, it marks the start of a Summer which will change the girls’ lives forever. Phoebe is utterly obssessed with the witches in the play, and believes that she and her friends can hold and harness the same power that they have. The childhood games they played where they plotted and schemed in the safety of the den in the forest, are now replaced with the unwavering teenage belief that they are more powerful than this world, and can make the things they want to happen become reality.
Phoebe also finds herself attracted to her young (and very married) English Teacher, and after initally rebuffing her advances, he finds himself intoxicated by her, with devastating consequences.
As the novel progresses, and we switch back and forth between Phoebe, Orla and Grace’s lives, we see how each of them, under the oppressive Summer skies, all strive to make their mark on the world. Each of them has a goal, each of them wants to make sure that they can control their lives and be in ultimate charge of their destiny. They start to wonder whether something beyond their understanding and control is permeating their world and taking their fates out of their hands.
Phoebe is increasingly in the grasp of something unworldly, and is determined to rule her life, to be the Queen Of Her House. She becomes increasingly hedonistic and crosses boundaries and limits relentlessly. Orla always feels like she is the second choice for Phoebe – picked up and dropped on a whim. Orla seeems to believe the way she needs to connect with the world is to have something to love that will love her back unconditionally – and decides that a baby will solve all her problems. Meanwhile, Grace’s determination to be the only person to care for her Mum, leads to her increasingly isolating them from the world outside. Grace emphatically believes that she alone is able to single handedly take on board the burden of caring for her, and becomes mentally and physically like a soldier, fighting her battles against social services and any do gooders that try to stop her looking after her mum.
Crushed is a difficult novel to review, because to say too much more would give away the plot! Suffice it to say that Kate’s writing is beautifully measured, so evocative of those teenage summers where the languid days stretched ahead of all of us, filled with the promise of what we could do and become, and the time we could spend with our friends, free from the constraints of school and out of sight of our parents.
It is a novel that will take you back to your teenage years, remembering those friendships that meant the world to you, and for which you would have done anything. Crushed is also a deeply unsettling and thought provoking novel about how destructive teenage girls can be at their very worst, and how indestructible they believe they are at their very best.
Crushed is the perfect Summer read, a novel that will both delight and unnerve you at the same time, and take you back to those seemingly endless Summers and memories of the friendships you lived for.
Thank you so much to Sophie Portas at Faber for a copy of Crushed in exchange for an honest review and a chance to be part of this Blog Tour.
Find out what my fellow bloggers have to say about Crushed too…..