Author: Jane Harper
Narrated by Stephen Shanahan
Published: September 2020 by Hachette Audio UK
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Murder, Mystery, Audiobook Review
Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home. Kieran’s parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea, that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.
The Survivors is a story of family, secrets, lies and friendships and takes place in the small, fictional coastal town of Evelyn Bay in Tasmania. Kieran, along with girlfriend Mia and baby daughter Audrey, have returned to their home town from Sydney, in order to help Kieran’s mother pack up and move his father to a nursing home in Hobart.
The story is told from Kieran’s third person perspective and he’s not surprised at how little has changed in Evelyn Bay since his last visit. It’s a small place where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It was the end of the summer now and all the tourists have gone, leaving the place feeling quiet and empty. As always, being there brought back memories of events twelve years ago when a violent storm and a teenager’s carelessness had changed lives and family dynamics, leaving a community in shock and Kieran riddled with guilt.
She turned and headed back to the kitchen. Kieran could see Liam leaning out from the serving hatch. He murmured something as she approached and they both glanced back at Kieran.
The way I see it, you kill someone, you deserve all the shit that’s coming your way.
Kieran remembered Liam’s words, unmistakeable as they floated out from the kitchen.
There had been a silence, the industrial fan droning angrily. Kieran had tried to walk away. Go back to the table, he had told himself. Go back to Mia and Ash. You don’t need to hear this. He had stayed anyway, just out of sight.
‘Sorry. the guy with the baby?’ Bronte had said at last. ‘That guy? He killed someone?’
Kieran has never come to terms with what happened during the storm all those years ago and still carries the guilt. When a young woman’s body is found on the beach it’s only a matter of time before secrets, long repressed, make their way to the surface and once again, lives are turned upside down.
The Survivors, like Jane Harper’s previous novels, is slow burning and multi layered with a wonderfully described and atmospheric setting which as in previous books is an important part of the story. Especially poignant is the tribute to The Survivors of the title. Characterisation, relationships and the tensions arising within a small community are built on as the story progresses, with gossip and rumours spreading as past and current events unfold.
Well written, The Survivors focuses mostly on relationships—those of Kieran and his friends who never left Evelyn Bay and have their own issues to deal with and a very astute portrayal of a family stressed almost to breaking point. Added to that is a man trying to come to terms with a tragedy that changed his life and family. The characters are realistic with regards to behaviour and dialogue, as we get an insight into their personalities and emotions.
The only negative for me was what seemed like an extra slow initial build up but once things began to move along I became much more invested. There’s certainly a good correlation between the sometimes turbulent setting and the lives of the characters, both are inextricably entwined.
The fact that Stephen Shanahan is Australian added a realistic quality to the narration although there was little to no differentiation between the characters.
About the Author
Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.