Heavenly Creatures Revisited

On a recent evening I started reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, by Peter Graham, and spent most of the next day glued to it. If you know the movie Heavenly Creatures, this is the rest of the story, about Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, two girls in Christchurch, New Zealand, who in 1954 murdered Pauline’s mother. There was no doubt as to their guilt; the trial centered on questions of insanity.

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Anne Perry and the Murder of the CenturyAnne Perry’s identity as Juliet Hulme was revealed by the making of the film (although not by Peter Jackson, who did not want to expose either of the women). I had read many of Anne Perry’s mysteries before that, but I don’t think I’ve read one since. (She does not come off well in this book.)

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The book is very thorough and well researched, by a New Zealand lawyer with a long-time interest in the case. He goes into the backgrounds of the girls and their families, describes the killing and the trial in great detail, and follows up with the later lives of the two women and many other people associated with the case. I haven’t been so caught up in a book in quite some time. A fascinating look at the time and place, and some very strange psychology.

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After I finished the book, I found my copy of Heavenly Creatures on the DVD shelf and Heavenly Creatureswatched it again (I hadn’t seen it in several years). The movie is quite true to the actual story, with stunning performances by Kate Winslet as Juliet and Melanie Lynskey as Pauline (both film debuts) and some remarkable special effects work animating the girls’ fantasy kingdom of Borovnia and their infatuation with Mario Lanza. The film ends with the murder.

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The film centers largely around Pauline, as her diaries were available and were extensively quoted in the script. The original title of Graham’s book, So Billiantly Clever, came from Pauline’s writings, as did the phrase Heavenly Creatures. Juliet’s mother managed to burn Juliet’s diaries before the authorities asked for them. Graham’s book goes far deeper into the girls’ personalities and behavior, and makes it clear that Juliet, rather than Pauline, was the dominant personality in their fantasies, and a willing participant in the murder.

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Heavenly Creatures is an amazing film, but for the whole story, read Graham’s book.

 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nina Bangs
    Nov 12, 2017 @ 20:42:13

    Fascinating!

    Like

    Reply

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