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Dark Places (Singer family prequel)

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  420 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2001
Published August 1st 1995 by MacMillan General Books (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30)
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A convincingly done portrait of a monster, who tries to cover up his own self-loathing by abusing everyone in his power - mentally, physically and sexually. An unpleasant read but a compelling one.

3.5 stars.
Nov 15, 2014 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful portrayal of an absolutely awful man.

Albion Gidley Singer is a monster of a man, who puts down everyone around him, and in particular the women in his life - his mother, his wife, his female work colleagues and of course his daughter, who in his eyes can do not good. His obsession to put down his daughter at every turn is so overwhelming that it leads to tragedy, which eventually leads to his own demise.

Kate Grenville has written a great portrayal of a hideous man, but one which
Alison Newell
Nov 05, 2012 Alison Newell rated it really liked it
I cannot think when I last read such a potent and vivid depiction of character as Kate Grenville's creation Albion Singer. His darkness and brutality, coupled with - indeed, caused by - his crippling sense of personal inadequacy, come something close to Emily Bronte's Heathcliff. In both cases the reader is left feeling deeply conflicted.
As a boy Albion is mollycoddled by his mother and intimidated by this father. She over-feeds him and he sneers and derides him, and he is bullied at school. As
Text Publishing
There's been a lot of hype about a certain thriller called Dark Places, which has recently received the A-list movie treatment.

Well, this isn't it. But it did take the title before it was cool to do so. Kate Grenville ftw.

‘This is a dark tale, told with surprising humour.’
New Yorker

‘A compelling narrative, rendered with compassion.’

The ambition behind it is met at almost every point by Grenville’s talent: unmistakable voice, solid intelligence, bea
It's rare that I don't finish a book. This one is one of them.
Mar 21, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it
For 300 Pages of "Dark Places" the reader takes a comic journey through the bourgeois grotesque of middle class 20th century Australia. It reminded me of the Southern American grotesques of Eudora Welty, misshapen characters with a comic flair, only transplanted to the land down under. The lead character, Albion Gidley Singer, is the epitome of corrupt patriarchy in a bourgeois society, and seems to be completely indifferent to it, even innocent -- a big, overblown beach ball of a man drifting ( ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Marianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark Places (aka Albion’s Story) is the prequel to Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville, although it was published after Lilian’s Story. Albion Gidley Singer can be defined as: the son of George Augustus Singer and Angelica Singer; the brother of Kristabel Singer; an acquaintance of James Ogilvie; proprietor of Singer Enterprises and pillar of society; husband of Norah Singer; father of Lilian and John Singer. But who is he really? He cannot grasp his real self; he feels he is an empty, hollow shell ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novels that rely heavily on Freudian and Lacanian references and images have no business being even remotely enjoyable (see: Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers). Likewise a first person narration of a violent, predatory, sadistic and narcissistic protagonist are, at best, an exercise for the reader in empathizing with the darker aspects of humanity (see: Nabokov’s Lolita), and done poorly, rewarding for the reader in the sense of self-satisfaction of never being like the narrator (or even believing that ...more
Ashley Wigglesworth
Beautifully written but holy smokes, it is brutal to read. I could barely get through it and the end was the hardest part. I probably should have started with Lilian's Story. I'm starting on that one next but this one left me pretty fatigued about the whole storyline. Perhaps before the "Age of Trump", I could have been a little more objective, but a story featuring this level of blatant and audacious misogyny and narcissism is hitting a little to close to home these days. I'll also say if you a ...more
Vikki Patis
Apr 14, 2016 Vikki Patis rated it really liked it
This book is a hauntingly dark train wreck. You know what's going to happen, you can feel it coming from the beginning, but when it finally arrives, there's no time to feel smug about predicting it.

Albion Singer is an awful, misogynistic man of his time, full of nothing but contempt and complete ignorance (dressed up as "male intelligence" in a finely tailored suit) for women. You meet the many faces of Albion - disappointing son, inadequate father, abusive husband - but also the many faces of
Nov 29, 2013 Katie rated it liked it
I can't give this any more than three stars. It disgusts me. The character disgusts me, but actually...for that, I like the book. I needed to know why someone like Albion would do what he did to Lilian, and that is the only reason I read this book. I hate his decisions. I hate the hollow being that he was written to be, and the way that he found his way to a "whole" existence. But I didn't find him entirely unrelatable. Which is scary, but also wonderful.
Aside from that, I also just appreciate
I liked the book, but struggled to have any sympathy with the lead character, apart from when he was a child. I kept thinking that if the book had been written by a man, I would have put it down. Just the inappropriateness of all his feelings and attitudes towards the women — those in his life, on the periphery of his life and in general — I found quite repulsive. It reminded me of a revolting man I once knew who, when asked whether his wife had had a baby girl or a baby boy, replied 'the slotte ...more
Jan 03, 2010 Aenor rated it it was amazing
I loved this deliciously disturbing, psychologically astute book. Its central character - Albion Gidley Springer - is all too plausibly shaped by the family and milieu in which he's raised. Lacking a solid sense of himself, he learns by careful observation how to be a man, a friend, a husband, a company boss. But the price of this is a lifetime of anxiety that others will see through his thin mask and glimpse the void that is within him. The other problem for Gidley (or rather for his wife, sist ...more
Jan 30, 2008 sisterimapoet rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-2009
When I read Lillian's Story and heard that Grenville had written an parallel novel about Lillian's father I knew I had to read it. And I was not disappointed. Vile though the man is.

I can't say I ever felt sympathy for Albion, or even wavered slightly in my dislike for him. In fact at times it was quite distasteful to spend so much time in his company. But Grenville writes so well that I couldn't quite turn away. I had to keep reading to know how low he would stoop, and where his sorry tale woul
Dec 13, 2012 Cathc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this a very difficult book to read and at several points early on was prepared to give up. The reason for this is that I found the leading character, Albion Greville Singer to be so completely repulsive. It might well be that he was a product of his Victorian upbringing but the man is a sexual predator who brought grief and misery to those around him, employees and family alike. I plodded to the end in the hope that he would finally get his well deserved comeuppance and I suppose he does ...more
May 28, 2013 Oanh rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
Excellently written. Certainly not a light read, nor the kind of read for people who must empathise with their protagonists. The narrator (Albion Gidley Singer, book written in first person) is not in the least bit likeable, & be behaves and thinks atrociously. But for all of that, Kate Grenville has done an excellent job of taking you into his story. This was very readable. It will make you squirm.

Niggly issue: it begins as if Albion is writing his story in his old age, with some degree of
Aug 31, 2015 Toni rated it really liked it
this author has an amazing writing style that really encourages the reader to keep reading. The topic is not pleasant - the book has a main character who has no nice ways about him at all - as he grows older he becomes nastier and I really wanted to stop reading at many points. But I couldn't stop reading. The content is confronting, but I found it made me think about similar people and why individuals choose to do certain things and the effect it has on the family. Very interesting - so despite ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved and hated this book. It tells the story of Albion Gidley Singer, a man who lacks personality to the extent that he memorises multiple facts so that he can make conversation.

Having been neglected by his own mother, he is a misogynist to such an extent that he believes he has the right to conquer any woman, even his own daughter, and, indeed, he believes that he only becomes whole after he does that.

He is such an awful character that I really disliked him, but Kate Grenville draws him so w
Aug 05, 2009 Polly rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Not sure
Recommended to Polly by: Book Club choice
I had real problems with this book. There were times when it made me feel physically sick. Of course, I sometimes watch TV Land, which might not qualify me as a valid reviewer of such a truly dark book. I saw absolutely no point in writing or reading this book. That is not to suggest that the writing was poor; I thought it was actually tight and well-constructed. However, the Satanic rituals, extremely dysfunctional and cruel characters, and maybe, worst of all, the feelings of hopeless poverty ...more
Albion Singer is one of the most vile men ever depicted. He lives a shallow and indulgent life. He has no pity for others, no interest in doing anything but playing at being a gentleman. His treatment of women is abominable - seeing them as only objects for reproduction or to fulfil his own desires. His violation of his daughter was abhorrent.

Grenville's ability to paint this man and his world shows her talent as a world class author.
Mar 01, 2011 Av rated it it was amazing
I found the language to be an absolute pleasure to read, as it was written extremely beautifully. As a result this allowed the story to be woven intricately, with a glorious development of character. Albion was a complex character with many layers that were meticulously discovered throughout the book; this book provided a perspective on the conventions of society, gender, sex, emotion and also the revolution of change, traditionalism and the approach of relationships.
Sep 19, 2013 Megan rated it it was amazing
This was hard to read simply because Albion was such a thoroughly despicable man. I tried to find reasons for his debauched attempts to fill the hollowness within himself in his childhood, and while it certainly doesn't seemed to have helped, he seems to have been born that way. Ms Grenville doesn't go into nature vs nuture at all, I don't think that's the point of this book, but does paint a very convincing portrait of one man.
Oct 04, 2012 Judith rated it it was amazing
It's two days since I finished this book and I am still overcome. I almost stopped reading it several times because it was too uncomfortable reading in the first person about someone whose psyche becomes so twisted over his lifetime that he hurts everyone around him. The last half hour reading overwhelmed me. I just finished THe Secret River and I think Kate Grenville is one of the best authors I have ever read. I am looking at everyone around me a little differently since reading this book.
Michele Harrod
Jul 10, 2009 Michele Harrod rated it liked it
I was fascinated by this book from the outset, trying to decide if the protaganist was a soul-less psychopath, or just a completely disfunctional human created by the societies own rules and restrictions of the time. He was laughable, and repulsive all at once, yet pitable and tragic. A dark peek into the heart of a man who has no real sense of place in this world.
Dec 06, 2014 Katie rated it did not like it
I am not even finishing this book. It makes me feel physically I'll even though I've tried hard to get through it. I actually really hate the main character and the way it's written. Albion is a cruel, socially awkward, and abusive man who basically thinks women are receptacles. I just want to punch the guy.
Catherine Lockwood
Apr 26, 2013 Catherine Lockwood rated it really liked it
The book about a man with no soul such a contrast to the lovely smart free spirited Lillian. I think it helps to have read Lillian's story. Kate Grenville is extremely talented the book was definitely dark!!!
Lauren Albert
Mar 19, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I didn't enjoy this book and found myself skimming to get to the end. I understand what Grenville is trying to do in creating the character and I have certainly read other books with morally dark narrators that I felt worthwhile but this didn't work for me.
Barbara Devlin
I actually read this years ago: had forgotten much of it (my issue rather than the book's). It has lost none of its shockingness. Grenville has an ability to get into the dark recesses of some disturbing characters and render them appallingly believable.
Maria Northcote
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
I so loved Grenville's The Idea of Perfection that I look for something of hers every time I hit the library. I wasn't so into this book. Her writing is amazing but there wasn't any character with whom I felt any sympathy.
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Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors. She's published eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works are the international best-seller The Secret River, The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian's Story (details about all Kate Grenville's books are elsewhere on this site). Her novels have won many awards both in Australia and the UK ...more
More about Kate Grenville...

Other Books in the Series

Singer family (3 books)
  • Lilian's Story
  • Joan Makes History

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