Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Reading in the Dark

Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane
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Jun 11, 14

bookshelves: all-fiction, europe-and-british-isles, four-star-fiction
Read in September, 2010

The book begins with an epigraph from "She Moved Through the Fair":

The people were saying no two were e'er wed
But one had a sorrow that never was said.


Those two lines carry the essence of the story. The long-term consequences of keeping secrets are at the heart of Reading in the Dark.

The unnamed narrator describes his Catholic boyhood in Derry in the 40s and 50s. Both his parents' families have secrets held since the time of the Troubles in the 1920s.
As the protagonist moves from boyhood into adolescence, he becomes almost obsessed with the family legends and bits of conversations he has heard through the years. Who really killed Billy Mahon? Who was the informer? Is Uncle Eddie dead or alive? And why did McIlhenny run off to America? Eventually the boy pieces together the truth, but it comes at some cost to himself and his family. Too late he discovers that even those we love cannot bear our presence once we have uncovered what lies behind their deepest shame.

Woven into the early narrative are some juicy Irish myths, ghost stories, and superstitions. I would have welcomed more of these as the story progressed, but Deane abandoned them in favor of a more serious tone. This was my only disappointment, as I'd come to look forward to the next interjection of folklore.

All in all a fine work for a poet's first novel. Like his narrator, Seamus Deane grew up in Derry in the 40s and 50s, so this could almost work as a fictional memoir.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl I really like the title, Jeanette.


message 2: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl My entire comment didn't go through...I was also saying that the story of the family secret is always intriguing. Add Ireland, and I'm sold! Thanks for introducing me to this book.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Cheryl wrote: "My entire comment didn't go through...I was also saying that the story of the family secret is always intriguing. Add Ireland, and I'm sold! Thanks for introducing me to this book."

You're welcome, Cheryl. The style here is quite different. I think you will like the way it's written.


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