Razorhurst: blood-drenched gang warfare and ghosts in Gilded Age Sydney
Justine Larbalestier's Razorhurst is an historical novel that skilfully weaves in a ghost story that puts the action of gang-warfare exactly where it belongs: in the relationship between the living and the dead.
Today, Surry Hills is a quiet, bohemian suburb of Sydney, but in the 1920s and 1930s, it was one of the roughest neighourhoods in Australia, rocked by gang-wars in which "standover men" fought one another with straight-razors -- avoiding the automatic suspicion generated by toting a gun.
It is here, in this blood-soaked Australian version of the Guilded Age, that Justine Larbalestier has set her latest YA novel, Razorhurst, telling the story of two young women whose lives are as different as can be, but also bound together by a weird and terrible kind of sisterhood.
Kelpie is a malnourished, feral child, a creature of the streets who doesn't even know how old she is. The only way she's survived to her current age -- whatever it may be -- is through the help of the Surry Hills' coterie of ghosts. Kelpie has always been able to see ghosts. Old Ma, who raised her until her death when Kelpie was only a small child, understood this, and taught her how to find the helpful ghosts and avoid the malicious ones. When Old Ma died -- her ghost lifting from the bed and encouraging Kelpie to gather her possessions and flee their tumbledown shack -- Kelpie was left in the care of ghosts.
Dymphna is as different as Kelpie as two young women could be. She is the prized top-earner of Glory, the brothel-owning crime-lord of Surry Hills. But she's also the obsession of Glory's arch-rival, Mr Davidson, Surry Hills' other crime-boss, who keeps killing the standover men whom Dymphna takes as her lovers and protectors. Dymphna is beautiful, high-class, well-spoken, and graceful. But she, too, can see ghosts.
Dymphna and Kelpie's lives come together when someone murders Dymphna's lover, Jimmy Palmer, with whom Dymphna had been plotting to take over from both Glory and Mr Davidson, ruling the Surry Hills. Haunted by Palmer's ghost (which Dymphna will not admit she can see, not to anyone, especially not Kelpie, who believes herself to be the only one who can see ghosts), the two girls must run, before one or both of the crime-bosses has them kidnapped, killed or worse.
Larbalestier weaves the history of Surry Hills into a story that is full of violence, sex, crime, corruption, nobility, love and lust, bringing a lost place to life even as she grabs us by the lapels and drags us through a fantastic supernatural caper story.
I've enjoyed every one of Larbalestier's books (especially the quirky, nearly indescribable Liar), but this one takes her storytelling to a whole new level.
London! I'll be at Pages of Hackney tonight with Olivia Sudjic! (then Liverpool, Birmingham, Hay...) (!)
Last night’s sold-out Walkaway tour event with Laurie Penny at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road was spectacular (and not just because they had some really good whisky behind the bar), and the action continues today with a conversation with Olivia Sudjic tonight at Pages of Hackney, where we’ll be discussing her novel Sympathy as well as […]
Theresa May won’t use the term “austerity” to describe her government’s policies, preferring the misleading phrase, “living within our means” — a term used to describe cuts to survival basics for millions of Britons, from housing to health to food to social care.
The following is an excerpt from my new book, The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir, now available from Lethe Press. The book chronicles the before-and-after of using Truvada PrEP, a recent breakthrough in HIV prevention that has prompted a new sexual revolution–except that most individuals have no idea it exists. Through sex positivity, explicit openness, and fun, I hope to make many more people aware that PrEP is an option for them in not just preventing HIV but having a better, braver sex life.
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]