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The Survivors: Book summary and reviews of The Survivors by Jane Harper

The Survivors

A Novel

by Jane Harper

The Survivors by Jane Harper X
The Survivors by Jane Harper
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  • Published Feb 2021
    384 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets in The Survivors, a thrilling mystery by New York Times bestselling author Jane Harper.

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. The book is named after the sculpture called The Survivors that stands sentry at the caves in Evelyn Bay, which is almost a character in its own right. Discuss the meaning and significance of the title and the sculpture in the context of the book and its characters
  2. After the storm, Kieran accepted that he was partly to blame for the deaths of his brother and Toby. How do you think this influenced the way he lived his life from that point on? How do the events of the novel change this, and what effect might that have on Kieran's future?
  3. Why do you think Kieran is more successful than some of the other characters at living with the trauma he experienced? What are some of the ways in which the other characters try to cope, and how ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Survivors:

Are the young men "nice guys"? What behaviors of male characters described in the novel lend weight to the idea of a culture of toxic masculinity, and why do you think this culture exists?
I think the answer to this question depends on one’s personal standards and experiences. My standards are pretty high because I’m the oldest (by six years) and only daughter among my siblings. Also, I teach middle ... - NCjeanne

Ash and Kieran have grown into quite different men. Why do you think this is?
Different paths in life. Kiernan left town, Keirnan married and had children, his life settled down. As on the other hand Ash never married, had no children and stayed in the same town he was raised in. - taking.mytime

Did you suspect at any point that Sean might have been involved in the deaths?
Clues were well hidden, as Harper is so good at doing. It took me a long time to suspect anyone, and especially Sean. I did feel early on that Sean was not getting his due in the book - he seemed to be just an outlier of the original group, which ... - taking.mytime

Do you think Mia is right that events surrounding the storm made Kieran kinder? What was it about the events of the storm that could have prompted a change in Kieran? How did he continue to change in its aftermath?
I believe that people change naturally. Everything we do and see and hear changes us a little bit at a time. As we age we tend to grow into things we may not have had in our youth, be it kindness, patience, or understanding. Each major and unique ... - taking.mytime

George Barlin says of Evelyn Bay, "Places like this, they need to be tight-knit to work. Once the trust is broken, they're stuffed..." Do you think this is true?
In small towns people need to be helpful, or tight-knit - volunteer fire departments for example - but they also need to curb their tongues. Gossip and rumor can hurt a small community, and the people living there, quicker than anything else. There ... - taking.mytime

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Media Reviews

#1 International Bestseller

"As always, Harper skillfully evokes the landscape as she weaves a complicated, elegant web, full of long-buried secrets ready to come to light." —New York Times Book Review

"Another suspenseful thriller...And in Harper's proven style, the story is not only atmospheric, it delves deep into the psyche of main character Kieran Elliott and the townsfolk, unearthing dark secrets, hidden guilt and simmering social tensions." —Herald Sun

"The latest stunner from Jane Harper…[She] expertly raises the reader's pulse throughout the narrative, insinuating what happened that day but only revealing the truth slowly as Kieran comes to see past and present in a new light." —Booklist, starred review

"[Harper is] a master at creating atmospheric settings, and it's easy to fall under her spell…A layered and nuanced mystery." —Kirkus

"Jane Harper has created a tightly told, beautifully written, and suspenseful novel… It is a novel of guilt, remorse, injustice, and regret, all skillfully woven together seamlessly into a realistic work of literary power I cannot recommend highly enough." —Deadly Pleasures

"Harper expertly weaves past guilts with present grief. She remains a writer to watch." —Publishers Weekly 

"Jane Harper creates an impressive landscape that serves to illustrate how the experience of place inevitably shapes the lives of those who live there." —Sydney Morning Herald

"It's now clear Harper has a gift...every book has a distinct landscape that plays a central part in the plot made possible by her uncanny knack of bringing scenery to life." —Daily Telegraph

This information about The Survivors was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

brilliantly-plotted piece of Australian crime fiction
The Survivors is the fourth novel by award-winning Australian author, Jane Harper. When Keiran Elliott returns to his small Tasmanian hometown of Evelyn Bay to help his parents pack up their house, not everyone is pleased to see him. While everybody knows what happened during the big storm, twelve years earlier, not all regard him with sympathy; blame radiates from certain eyes.

Mere hours after he and Mia and their baby arrive, though, a young woman is dead on the beach. The town is shocked at the loss of this sweet young woman: a temporary summer waitress and art student, she was well-liked. It soon becomes apparent that there are some parallels with the disappearance of a young girl during that fateful storm, with some of the same bystanders present in the town. The Evelyn Bay Online Community Hub is a hotbed of rumour and comment.

Over the next few days, as police from Hobart arrive to investigate, Keiran is not the only one whose thoughts go back to that awful time when his own brother and his best friend’s brother lost their lives. As well as the stress of his wandering, dementia-affected father and his frazzled mother, Keiran is being coerced by a friend into something he’s not quite comfortable with.

Harper easily evokes her setting: for anyone who has spent a summer in an Australian coastal town, this will feel familiar. The dialogue is exactly what one hears in such a place, and the characters are multi-faceted and believably flawed. Once again, Harper produces a brilliantly-plotted piece of Australian crime fiction, with red herrings and diversions that will keep the pages turning and the reader guessing right up to the final pages.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Macmillan Australia


The story wasn’t earth shattering in content but, nonetheless, I was mesmerized by it. The formula of a good author I guess. The momentum of the plot starts early on and keeps building to an unbelievable ending. I really didn’t see it coming. The author is clever, intelligent and one of the best in the genre. I highly recommend it.


Another winner from Jane Harper
I discovered Jane Harper with The Lost Man a few years ago and loved that book. I also read The Dry which didn’t excite me as much, but this new novel The Survivors has drawn me back in. I’m sure I will read more of her books in the future. I especially enjoyed that the setting was not the Australian desert, but a coastal Tasmanian town, which gave the book quite a different feeling. What did not change was Harper’s skill in writing a compelling page-turning mystery and her ability to create a sense of place. Highly recommend this for anyone looking for a good mystery. Thanks to Flatiron Books and Bookbrowse for providing the ARC.


Well paced mystery
In The Survivors, Jane Harper has written a character who is a successful and popular writer. It is said of him that his books are the type you buy in the airport, are engrossed in during the flight and on the beach, but do not pack in your suitcase to bring home with you. I think that is a fair description of this book - it is a tightly written, well plotted mystery in a romantic and mysterious beach setting, and it is quite a page turner. The characters are appealing but not that well developed, and there are a few too many. But it is a marvelous bit of entertainment, a great escape. Harper has figured out how to write this type of novel, which, as she herself says, is perfect for a trip or vacation read or when you want to leave the world behind.


The Survivors
I really enjoyed this book! This is the first book of Jane Harper’s that I’ve read and I found her to be a great storyteller! The story captured my attention right at the start and held it...even with a somewhat slow build-up. I’m looking forward to reading some of her other books!!


Another great mystery from Jane Harper
Jane Harper continues to write winners. The Survivors is her fourth book and although it is hard to pick a favorite, this might be the best one yet.

The setting for this book is a small coastal town in Tasmania. Kieran Elliott returns home to help his parents move. He brings along his girlfriend Mia and baby daughter Audrey. We learn that twelve years prior a terrible storm happened and several people died, including Kieran's brother Finn and his partner. Kieran blames himself for these deaths because of a stupid error on his part.

Shortly after Kieran's return a girl is found murdered on the beach. As the murder is investigated, old secrets and resentments surface.

Harper masterfully reveals the past and present connections between characters in the book. She is also good at creating a small town atmosphere. The red herrings were great and I was kept guessing up to the end.

I highly recommend the book and I can't wait until her next one!

...3 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jane Harper Author Biography

Jane Harper is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry; and Force of Nature (both featuring Detective Aaron Falk); and two stand-alone novels: The Lost Man and The Survivors. The Exiles, the third volume in the Aaron Falk series, will publish in January 2023.

Jane previously worked as a print journalist in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her husband, daughter, and son.

Author Interview
Link to Jane Harper's Website

Other books by Jane Harper at BookBrowse
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  • The Dry jacket
  • Force of Nature jacket

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