The new girl at school struggling to find her tribe is befriended by a trio who enjoy dabbling in witchery – so far so The Craft. Thankfully, Katie Lowe’s debut novel isn’t a rehash of the 90s movie but instead is an absorbing take on toxic female friendship, infatuation and rage.
Set in an English seaside town in 1998, The Furies opens with a striking visual image – a dead 16 year old girl, found posed on a swing on school property with no obvious bodily injury. Four people know the identity of the girl and how she died and through flashbacks our protagonist, Violet, narrates the year leading up to that fateful night.
Violet joins the most prestigious of all girls’ schools – Elm Hollow Academy – following the death of her father and younger sister in a car accident. She’s reserved, withdrawn and lives with her mother who is so consumed by grief she barely registers Violet’s existence. At Elm Hollow the teenager therefore finds herself drawn to her polar opposite – the gregarious and loud Robin, who welcomes her into a private study group she attends with friends Grace and Alex and led by enigmatic art teacher Annabel.
During their private tuition the foursome learn about the mythology and witchy history of Elm Hollow and find themselves drawn to teachings on ‘the Furies’ – also known as the Erinyes, the female deities of vengeance. As friendships intensify the girls call on ‘the Furies’ to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged them. There are moments of real horror in Lowe’s prose, as she details the unravelling of the girls’ psyches and descent into violence.
The Furies examines the toxic form that some female friendships can take as well as class, privilege, obsession and anger, which are both timely and timeless themes. With the characterisation of Violet and Robin being so vivid, and their friendship so intense and suffocating, it unfortunately makes the characters of Grace and Alex feel two dimensional at times.
Despite this The Furies is an assured and at times haunting debut, that will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.