This first novel, akin to Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That, describes growing up in, and leaving, Northern Ireland. It is a work of anger, passion, and great intensity. The boy narrator grows up enclosed in two worlds. One is legendary: a Donegal house where children are stolen away by demonic forces. The other is actual: the city of Derry in the Northern Ireland of the 1940s and 1950s, a place haunted by political enmities and family secrets.
©1997 Seamus Deane (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Wonderful autobiographical-novel which spins fantasy with fact. Beautifully Narrated by S.Rea, who draws you into the dark story behind the familys secret history. This novel gives great insight into growing up within an intercommunal conflict zone and the legacy of violence.
Buyers beware this audio book is missing pages and as such is not unabridged.
"Moving and Melancholy"
While Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark is a novel, it reads more like a typically bleak Irish memoir. What sets it apart is its structure, its narrator, and Deane's beautiful, melancholy prose. The story is unchronological, shifting erratically between episoices set in the 1940s to others set in the '50s, all of them linked by events and secrets from even earlier days before the narrator's birth. Deane's narrator, a sensitive, intelligent boy, is one of the middle children in a large Catholic family in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Unlike Frank McCourt's family (Angela's Ashes), they are not in dire financial straits, but the family is haunted by secrets--secrets that come between husband and wife, between sisters, and eventually, as the narrator unravels them, between mother and son.
Deane's story is full of the expected: a repressive Catholic education; ghosts on the staircase and in the graveyard; children dying of diseases now controllable; an aunt whose husband disappeared, leaving his pregnant new bride to raise their child alone; scrapes with the police; and always, always, the lingering Troubles. But here, the telling is even more striking than the story:
"So broken was my father's family that it felt to me like a catastrophe you could live with only if you kept it quiet, let it die down of its own accord like a dangerous fire. Eddie gone. Both parents both dead within a week. Two sisters, Ena and Bernadette, treated like skivvies and living in a hen-house. A long, silent feud. A lost farmhouse, with rafters and books in it, near the field of the disappeared. Silence everywhere. My father knowing something about Eddie, not talking but sometimes nearly talking, signalling. I felt like we lived in an empty space with a long cry from him ramifying through it. At other times, it appeared to be as cunning and articulate as a labyrinth, closely designed, with someone sobbing at the heart of it."
A beautifully written novel about love, conscience, secrets, and legacy, highly recommended. And for reading a novel such as this, there's no one better than Stephen Rea.
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