Whisky and pills. As children, we had sometimes talked about suicide. Just for the morbid thrill of it. And I had always chosen something dramatic – leaping forty storeys, swimming out to sea – but even then Annie had been adamant. Whisky and pills, Steph, she’d said to me. But they’d have to be the right pills, I’d answered. And you’d have to be sure you had enough. Of course, said Annie. That goes without saying.
When Steph finds the body of her best friend, Annie, she is devastated. Annie has committed suicide and as well as the sense of loss, Steph is also consumed by guilt. Why didn’t she see it coming and why didn’t she act to stop it?
Steph returns home to Australia and revisits the places of their childhood. The pair had met growing up in the beach Sydney suburb of Coogee during the 1905s. Now, in 1985, Steph finds the place changed but not unrecognisable. As she rekindles her friendship with a man who both she and Annie had relationships with in their late teens, Steph tries to make sense not just of Annie’s death, but also of their whole friendship.
Beyond the Break is a novel about friendship, family and growing up, set against the backdrop of Sydney’s beaches, especially in the 1950s. Whilst it explores issues including sexual inequality and family violence, it does so in a way which neither glosses over or becomes booked down in the issues. What is under exploration is the relationship between these two young women and, more broadly, their relationships with their families and friends.
This is a powerful and evocative read.
Beyond the Break, by Sandra Hall
Harper Collins, 2006