There are books that you long to read, waiting for the publishing date and shelling out for the hardback edition, putting them on real or virtual wish-lists and champing at the bit until payday or a birthday comes around. Then there are the ones that find you and remain no less loved for the accidental nature of their discovery. Reading in the Dark is one of the second category, making its way to me via a Christmas parcel from a very dear friend.
Reading in the Dark is a book of secrets and hauntings, set in Derry and capturing one Catholic family’s attempts to live in the long shadows of their actions in the years around the Republic of Ireland’s traumatic birth. Politics provides a brutal backdrop to the everyday dissembling, lies and betrayals of family life as the author attempts to piece together exactly who knew what and when.
His path towards the truth mirrors his journey to maturity as he develops into a more thoughtful or poetic child than most his age, growing into greater awareness of the world around him.
…just above the stream, there was a clump of thorn bushes where wrens turned and twisted endlessly, hooking and unhooking their tiny bodies between the close branches in dapper knitting motions.
Trusted to sit beside his dying grandfather, he hears the final confession the old man is determined to keep away from the ears of the local priests, only to be left with more questions than he can answer. Instead he has to make sense of the clues as they are doled out to him, as he attempts to decipher the more usual adolescent mysteries surrounding the opposite sex. It is a tale of stories told and untold, featuring one of the most terrifying ghost stories – of a housekeeper left alone in a remote house with two children after their parents have died – that I have ever read, almost as an aside to the main narrative.
The family secret and his knowledge of it skews his relationships with his parents as he moves from childishness and innocence to having to protect his elders from the messes they have created, as well as his awareness of them.
… my heart went out to her even as I wished I could love her in the old way again. But I could only grieve for not being able to; and grieve the more that she could not love me like that any more either.
Reading in the Dark makes for an intriguing and mesmerising read, one that definitely shouldn’t be left to chance. Resolve to get hold of a copy now!
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Author picture from Field Day launch