The Lesser Column

Megan Abbott’s “Give me your hand” – Far more than it promises to be

book

Don’t be fooled by the cover, Megan Abbott’s book is a true powerhouse, flitting between two vivid timelines. Go read it. 

 

 

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, which is just sound advice, generally. And it’s exceptionally good advice here, as this book’s content, style and the author’s keen literary eye, are far superior to whatever programmer of a thriller the title and cover art suggests.

Author Megan Abbott’s ability to find horror in the mundane has served her well. Her new work combines a keen insight into the lives of high school girls with medical drama, as well as the generic tropes of the psychological thriller. The story centres around two principal characters: one, Kit, whose narrative alternates between her teenage years growing up poor in high school with dreams of making a career in scientific research; the same woman ten years later – living the dream, as it were. But at the same time we have Dianne, Kit’s high school bestie who confided a bit much in Kit back in the day and now holds her knowledge over Kit’s head like the proverbial sword of Damacles.

The “Then” sections are written with insight and vigour; Abbott knows well enough to show in detail the class codes that prejudice them in the lower echelons from realising their potential – Kit is spending a lot of her time working in a greasy spoon to supplement her mother’s income. Diane has things more together, but it wouldn’t be a thriller without some of the glue coming undone, and she’s got…some baggage. Shattered glass on the book’s cover? It ain’t a metaphor.

The “Now” sections are a distinct beast of their own. There is a dynamic – unique, to say the least – between Abbott’s central characters and their mentor-boss which registers as dysfunctional at a pinch. And that whole “male gaze” thing is in absentia here – the McGuffin of the narrative is the research done into PMDD – a kind of PMS on steroids (…with deadly results!). The condition-as-metaphor in the narrative is one which allows us to put a name to the ongoing struggle most – if not all – women seem to face among stereotypes and assumptions levelled against them based solely on hormones. Not for nothing, but there’s no question that Give Me Your Hand passes the Bechdel test.

Megan Abbott, credited with several books as well as work on the HBO drama The Deuce, knows her way around the inner workings of the female mind. Her depictions of the narrative deaths are confronting and powerful throughout, and there is within the piece a unique perspective rarely found in books of this nature.

 

The Lesser Column

The Lesser Column covers a broad spectrum of content. With a focus on film, we also publish reviews of music, books, TV shows, live theatre and stand-up comedy, as well as occasional pieces of social and cultural commentary. Our reviews don’t give star ratings or ‘thumbs up/down’, and come from a more personal perspective – why what’s on display affected us in the way it did; why it’s good or otherwise, how it fits in a broader cultural context. Here is where you come for informed opinion and analysis. People are often very selective about how and where they find themselves entertained, so we’re offering reasons why you should see, read, hear, and experience something beyond simply what it’s about.

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