So Brilliantly Clever
So Brilliantly Clever by Peter Graham delves into history and psyche in his exploration of the Parker-Hulme murder.
It was a murder that shocked 1950s Christchurch New Zealand, and by extension the world: the killing of Honora Parker by her 16 year old daughter Pauline and Pauline’s best friend, 15 year old Juliet Hulme. The girls’ friendship was so close as to be considered unhealthy, and when threatened with separation by their families they struck back. Once apprehended they showed no remorse for the murder, declared themselves above the law and retreated even further into a fantasy kingdom of violence and passion only they fully understood. Spared the hangmans’ noose because of their age, once released from prison they disappeared from the public eye until the release of the film Heavenly Creatures sparked a new flood of interest in the case.
Heavenly Creatures is one of my favourite movies, but until now the only books that had been published on the case were lurid pulp novels. So I was thrilled to find this one, and devoured it in roughly two days. That doesn’t mean it’s for everybody- it’s very long on detail and some of that detail is pretty dry stuff. Luckily there’s some thoughtful social and psychological analysis as well, and author Graham paints an interesting portrait of two young women, each with significant emotional problems, who see in each other a magical escape from their stifling or neglected reality. Maybe not the best choice for a Mother’s Day gift, but certainly worth a read if true crime is your “thing”.