Daughters Of Eve

Daughters Of Eve

I wonder if many people remember the teen writer Lois Duncan?

Although her novel I Know What You Did Last Summer was made into a hit film, her name is rarely mentioned these days.

But she is a classic author for young adults. Growing up, she was one of my very favourite novelists - the ones like Roald Dahl, where I'd check the bookshop every week to check if they had anything new out, and read everything they published.

I even wrote a letter to her once, via her publisher. I don't remember what she replied, but I do recall that her letter was suitably strange, and talked about her life in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I say suitably strange because Lois Duncan was a writer of really chilling thrillers. I loved Stranger With My Face, Locked in Time, and Summer of Fear. But my favourite as a 12-year-old was Daughters of Eve.

Published in 1979, it's a scary tale about feminism gone bad. Into a high school sorority at a small town in Michigan comes Irene Stark, a teacher who encourages the girls to set aside society's narrow boundaries and fulfil their career potential. But by the time the school prom comes around, sisterhood turns sinister, and lives are ruined.

It's still a page-turner for me now, and an intriguing window into a time in recent history - the era of 'women's liberation' - that we seem to forget about now. Could it really have been that as recently as the late 1970s in America, girls were expected to cook and clean while their chauvinist pig brothers were not?

That girls were expected to become housewives and let their talents for music or science rot?

There are mixed shades of good and evil in the book - Irene is not quite a monster; she speaks a lot of sense. And that makes her wickedness all the more disturbing.

Lois Duncan was born in 1934 and has written 48 books, not just the suspense novels of the 70s and 80s I knew her for, but also picture books for younger children and a non-fiction account of the brutal murder of her daughter at the age of 18, in 1989. (Thinking back, I must have written to her around this time, which is why her reply may have mentioned this and struck me as strange).

I was excited to discover she has a thriving website and is still writing new books - most recently, she has been updating her thriller classics for the 21st century, giving characters computers and cell phones.

The nastiest character in Daughters of Eve, the misogynistic teenage boy Peter, doesn't really get his comeuppance. So I was happy to read what Duncan says about updating the book.

'Daughters of Eve was the hardest book to revise, because my editor thought that in today's world the vengeful acts of the girls should be more violent than they were in the original book. In other words, shaving Peter's head, which was a horrible thing to do to a boy when that book was first written, would seem like nothing today when many boys shave their heads of their own free will. So I have the girls do something much worse to Peter.'

You'll need to read the book to find out what.

Having just re-read my old Pan Horizons edition of the novel, published in 1991, I can't wait to track down the updated version and find out.

More on Parentdish: