I saw the film “Cracks” and out of curiosity decided to read the book and found it to be more deviated from the movie than expected. As in the above description, (book summary) the setting is in South Africa and Fiamma is an Italian girl from an aristocratic family. As a teenager, she enrolls in an isolated school with other girls her age but has little in common with them, and with the aid of a favored but abusive teacher, the situation degenerates into bullying and finally tragedy.
What I found interesting is how the story crosses so many layers in human culture that fulminates in the horrendous ending. Culture differences with Fiamma being from Italy, class difference with her wealthy background, and the way aristocracy sees commoners in their eyes; Fiamma wasn’t interested in the other girls, though she intended no ill will. However, being beautiful, rich, well read, and an excellent swimmer, everyone had some level of obsession with Fiamma.
The swimming teacher, Miss G, was the favorite of the girls because she made them feel special. But when she found Fiamma more special than everyone else, it drew the ire of them all, despite of her known mental instability. Miss G abused her position as teacher by manipulating the girls, abusing Fiamma and the other teachers turned a blind eye to the obvious behavior.
Last, but not least, is the ultimate breakdown of humanity by bullying kids not understanding the consequences of their actions. In the “Lord of the Flies” moment, the girls showed they were little different from animals as they degenerated into teenage bullies ganging up on a girl made to be a pariah because of jealousy; to be punished only by their own guilt as they aged. The lack of accountability to society of the crime is disturbing and opens the bare truth that young people do terrible things with few good answers regarding rule of law.
“Cracks” is a mesmerizing read, a bit laborious and devastating. The book adds many more elements than the film. Four stars!