The Furies is a dark literary thriller about friendship and the artistic history of female power and revenge. After an accident claims the lives of her father and sister, Violet ends up at a private girls’ school for her A Levels, Elm Hollow Academy. It has a grisly history of witchcraft and Violet isn’t sure she cares about being there, but then she’s drawn into the world of Robin, a charismatic girl with red hair, and her friends Grace and Alex. Together they take extra classes with Annabel, an art teacher who follows the tradition of teaching a few students about mythology, art, and literature. The strange power she describes starts to sound like it could be real, and just when it does, the body of a missing former student and member of Annabel’s study group is found on campus.
This is The Secret History crossed with a girls’ school in the 90s and a sharp gothic edge. It follows a classic kind of structure for stories about a group in an isolated environment (here, a private school in a run down seaside town), with the narrator lonely and easily obsessed with their new friends. The narrative style is distinctive, causing purposeful confusion at times as Violet narrates with hindsight and leaving elements ambiguous. Notably, the witchcraft history—and the apparent summoning of the Furies of Greek mythology—is more of an inspiration and catalyst than the entire plot, and the story itself follows the tangles of friendship, violence, and revenge.
Violet and Robin’s friendship is crucial and well-written, tinged by Violet’s perspective and her lack of self-awareness around it. Grace and Alex are also great characters, though it is a little frustrating that Violet often ignores them in favour of Robin, meaning they don’t get as much exploration as they could. Otherwise, Violet’s single-mindedness works well to create an atmosphere in which she doesn’t notice much else going on outside of their circle, intoxicated by what they’re doing and by drink and drugs.
The Furies may seem at first like it could be a young adult novel about toxic friendships, it turns into something much darker, in which the academic view of the teacher is essentially turned into reality by the students who aren’t so captivated by the art and literature as by the meaning. This gives it a different edge to other reference-laden literary thrillers, as it is the drinking, dancing, and revenge that means most to the teenage protagonists. This is a book that fans of The Secret History, Heathers, and the new Netflix reboot of Sabrina (preferably of all three) will likely devour.