The past is never history.
Eve, now 34 and a concert cellist living in London, returns to an Australian country town for the funeral of her old school friend, Meg. As Eve and Sarah, also a school friend, face their friend Meg's death, they must also face the past and the secret the three women shared.
Eve, Meg and Sarah met as boarders at Hetherington Girls' School in leafy Sydney. Despite their differences they became friends and as their years as boarders unfold they help each other cope with homesickness, new routines, different expectations.
Eve's parents own a chemist in a mid-sized rural NSW town. She is thoughtful, talented and uncomplicated. Meg is the tomboy of the group, the only child of a sheep farmer from western NSW. Her mother died when she was four and it has been Meg and her Dad on the farm ever since.
Sarah's parents live in the city and she is a weekly boarder. Her parents are busy professionals and thought it best for her routine and education for Sarah to board. Sarah tries not to look out the window of the boarding house and see the red tiled roof of her home four kilometres away.
Life changes for the girls when Rebecca Thornton arrives. Some bullies are created from the perfect storm: insecurity, intelligence, looks, a need for attention. Rebecca was born one.
In Years Eight and Nine at Hetherington, Rebecca plays her psychological games with Eve. There are small hits and big ones. She draws Eve in, making Eve want to be her friend, and throws her away for everyone's amusement. Eve's bullying manifests itself in self- harm. Sarah's impotence leads to her controlling one thing: her food intake.
At 15, Rebecca and her family go overseas, Meg returns from her scholarship and the girls' lives appear to return to normal. But in their final year of school Rebecca returns. She befriends the girls, then begins her games again. The events of their final year of school torment and scar these young women as they attempt to lead fulfilling and productive adult lives.
Reading Group Book Questions
“Overall, UNDER THE INFLUENCE is an absorbing read and a fine debut” Angela Meyer, The Sydney Morning Herald
“UNDER THE INFLUENCE is a fresh and exciting debut from author Jacqueline Lunn that heralds a significant new voice in Australian fiction. Lunn's ability to weave a gripping narrative about friendship, love, loss, ambition and estrangement makes this book highly engaging and impossible to put down. Her insights into the tender and often traumatic rites of passage around the life of teenage girls and how foundations are laid for future relationships and Lunn's ability to capture so perfectly the nuances of the lives of women in their thirties is a powerful combination. It's a book that will stay with you for a long time after you put it down. In the best way possible.” Mia Freedman
“Lunn isn’t afraid to examine the darker side of human nature and the characters, particularly Eve, are expertly drawn. While the plot doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to drama, Lunn has a skilful way of capturing the inner lives of girls and women. Lunn has written a compelling and commendable debut. These characters are the kind who infiltrate your thoughts for weeks to come; so real that you forget they have come from a work of fiction.” Eleanor Limprecht, The Sun Herald
“An excellent debut novel - exceedingly compelling and definitely recommended for book clubs. A highly gifted and crafted writer.” Clare Calvet, ABC Local
“Lunn’s gift for intelligent prose lends clout to this tale of bullying and the lasting damage it causes.” Instyle
“Jacqueline Lunn writes with humour and intelligence, and conveys a sense of Australia’s unique character. She really knows how to tell a good story.” Brizzieblog
“A warm and thoroughly entertaining tale, a thoroughly engrossing, enjoyable read. The lyrical prose that mercifully avoids over description also helped the pace along nicely, and promises there’s plenty yet to come from this author.” Angela Young, The Courier Mail
“A story of teenage angst and insecurities that reach into adult life and the importance of lasting friendships. An easy read.” The Examiner
“A warm and entertaining tale.” Sunday Territorian
“A dark and painfully honest depiction of the power games played out between teenage girls.” Grazia
“Lunn writes with a passion that brings something deeper to the story.” Paul Donoughue, Sunday Mail Brisbane
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 1st April 2011
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 23.3 x 15.6 x 3.6
Weight (kg): 0.46