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3.5 

Penance

By Eliza Clark
Penance by Eliza Clark digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

One of Granta's Best Young British Novelists 2023 

“Eliza Clark’s writing embraces the socially unacceptable and wryly explores themes of gender, power, and violence.”—Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2023

“Chilling, clever, and unputdownable.”—Guardian

From the author of the cult hit Boy Parts comes a chilling, brilliantly told story of murder among a group of teenage girlsa powerful and disturbing novel as piercing in its portrait of young women as Emma Cline’s The Girls.

On a beach in a run-down seaside town on the Yorkshire coastline, sixteen-year-old Joan Wilson is set on fire by three other schoolgirls.

Nearly a decade after the horrifying murder, journalist Alec Z. Carelli has written the definitive account of the crime, drawn from hours of interviews with witnesses and family members, painstaking historical research, and most notably, correspondence with the killers themselves. The result is a riveting snapshot of lives rocked by tragedy, and a town left in turmoil.

But how much of the story is true?

Compulsively readable, provocative, and disturbing, Penance is a cleverly nuanced, unflinching exploration of gender, class, and power that raises troubling questions about the media and our obsession with true crime while bringing to light the depraved side of human nature and our darkest proclivities.

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405 Reviews

3.5
“4.5/5 big up(north) yorkshire! kinda loved how local this felt and it was nice hearing proper yorkshire accents during the audiobook lol. that's not very relevant to the content itself, but as someone who grew up relatively close to where the contents of this book took place, the scene setting was very realistic and almost nostalgic. i knew a lot of these characters in school/growing up and the energy was familar, maybe even comforting in a sense...which i know is a bit odd to say about a mockumentary style novel about a pretty horrifying murder lol ! i really dont like or engage with irl true crime stuff, and i tend to not read many thrillers or crime novels for similar reasons, so i was quite surprised at the ease in which i was able to read this. i was not bored at any point while reading this. this honestly did not have a lot of ~action~, majority of it was character building work, delving into the somewhat mundane backstories of many many different characters but it was all genuinely very interesting to listen to. the mixed-media nature of this — from podcasts, to tumblr posts, tweets, articles, interview portions, and regular prose — gave some texture to what may ordinarily feel a bit dull or dense. i give a lot of credit to the author for immediately making me care about the lives and histories of characters on page for a pretty brief portion of time. considering the amount of characters included in this, it was easy for me to keep track of all the different people involved and their role in the story at large. not only that, but they all felt distinct and like their role in the story mattered, no matter how brief their part may have played or their relatively transient nature in the next. i also give a LOT of credit for the author being able to discuss early 2010s fandom culture (on tumblr esp!) and not have it come across cringey in the slightest. homegirl really knows what she was writing about and i respect it to the max. the pacing was pretty consistent and kept me engaged, i did not lose interest and i was not distracted at all whilst reading/listening to this novel. my only minor minor gripe was i wish that the murder did not feel like such a speed run. this is where i think the pacing meandered a tad; considering how the rest of the book was written, the big moment we were all waiting for felt oddly rushed. i didnt want any more details per se, i think we got enough detail of the act itself, but considering the gravity of the scene and what it meant for the whole story it was brushed over incredibly quickly. i dont usually want books to be longer but i think this could have done with a few more pages or so. the ending (of the fake true crime book within this novel - if that makes sense”

About Eliza Clark

Eliza Clark is the author of Boy Parts and Penance. Boy Parts was Blackwell's 2020 Fiction Book of the Year and was later adapted for the stage. In 2022, Eliza was chosen as a finalist for the Women’s Prize Futures Award for writers under thirty-five and in 2023, was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. She also writes for film and television. She lives in London.


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