I remember channel-surfing one day and coming upon a film with the intriguing title “Heavenly Creatures,” starring Kate Winslet, one of my favorite actresses.
It began innocently enough. Two teenage schoolgirls become fast friends in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand. They are a little obsessed with each other and tend to live in a fourth-dimension of their own creation, but before you can say “matricide,” these two decide to brutally murder one of their mothers, who had threatened to keep them apart.
The movie took such a ghoulish turn that I turned off the TV and took a shower. I remember lamenting that the moviemakers really should not be putting that stuff out there and calling it entertainment. (Whatever possessed dear Kate to take such a nightmarish role?)
Little did I know that it was indeed a true story recounting the world-famous 1954 Parker-Hulme murder trial, based on events in the life of author Anne Perry (real name: Juliet Marion Hulme), who was the accomplice in the murder of her friend Pauline Parker’s mother.
Both girls were found guilty but too young to hang, they got off with five years each in separate prisons and were ultimately released. If you are dying for more details, read the book “So Brilliantly Clever” (Awa Press, 2011) by Peter Graham.
It turns out that both Parker and Hulme had childhood diseases that kept them out of the mainstream during their formative years. They were both highly intelligent and very unstable, and they found in each other someone to trust completely. As a child, Hulme was sent away, alone, to other countries by her parents to stay with friends in warmer climates so that she might recover from tuberculosis. She felt neglected and unwanted.
Child psychologists tell us that a young person craves identity and worth – and when that isn’t adequately provided, in some cases, it can take a really dark turn, especially when a yin meets her yang. Scary teenage energy.
It is a mystery to me how this mystery writer ever quite recovered from these events, but evidently Hulme not only recovered, but continues to thrive via her pseudonym, Perry. She has expressed deep regret for the crime and lives a rather reclusive life in Scotland, where she continues to turn out many best-selling books, her latest “A Sunless Sea” (Ballantine, 2012) (see review below).
Her story has a relatively happy ending so far. Redemption is an ongoing process for all of us, enjoyed most when we live to tell about it. I’m just saying … you might want to give your adolescent an extra hug before you take down his or her Facebook page. As I can personally attest, during those rebellious years, friends rule and parents drool, even in picturesque New Zealand. Who knew?
Sharon Lennox-Infante, contributing editor for Book Buzz, is a Los Altos resident.