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What They Do in the Dark

2.67  ·  Rating details ·  943 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Like Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, this gripping novel pulls you toward its unimaginable climax and will leave you haunted and heartbroken.

Spoiled but emotionally neglected Gemma, who seems to have everything, and semi-feral Pauline, who has less than nothing, are two very different ten-year-old girls growing up in a toug
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published March 19th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company (first published July 7th 2011)
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2.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  943 ratings  ·  220 reviews

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Sep 21, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this book: An intriguing title, a striking cover, publication by Virago.

I had to pick it up, and thought the back cover gave away nothing of the plot it did give a few enticing details, and it did promise to evoke an emotional reaction.

I did react emotionally – though not in a good way – and I found the title and the details a little misleading.

The book opens with a wonderful piece of writing: a press story about Lallie, a rising child story, that cleverly echoes stories of
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Listen. If you want to shock me, shock me. I'm all for darkness and terrible things happening. Bring it on. What I don't like it, is shock endings that come out of now where. That's cheating. While there were certainly pieces of writing that shone in this piece, particularly the ending, it doesn't make up for the confused mess of a book that the author ended up writing. I think I would be less harsh if all the bigwigs hadn't pooped about it so much and what an incredible read it was.
The fact is
3.5 stars

I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book.

I might have made the wrong decision now. I'm not sure.

50 pages from the end, I was ready to give it 5 stars.

Let's get one thing straight: Amanda Coe is a fantastic writer. I will read whatever she writes next. She perfects the hardest kind of writing to get right - literary but never pretentious or unrealistic. Some lines and images in "What They Do In The Dark" are so perfect that I had to stop reading for a second just to contemplate th
I wasn't going to write a review of this, as I've been incredibly busy lately - which is why I've only read one book in March so far. However, the ending left me with A Lot of Feelings, so here is... an informal review, if you like. (It will have a lot of spoilers in it. I will use the spoiler tags, but these are BIG spoilers, so don't click if you're planning to read the book.)

What They Do in the Dark is about three young girls in mid-1970s Yorkshire. Gemma is middle-class, relatively spoilt, a
Jun 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Lets start by saying that the title is deceiving. NOTHING happens in the dark, as a matter of fact, NOTHING ever happens in this book until the very end and still, it leaves you with the question, "HUH"? It was confusing, lacked in details and left me wanting to skip thru the chapter and never having to read another page. A mess of a story. Everyone in my book club hated it! Sorry Amanda Coe
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
i can't really recommend this at all, but when it comes to books, i feel like i am starting to feel like nina garcia on "project runway". "don't bore ciara." i didn't have the energy to write book reviews at all during my first trimester. now that i finally have my energy back, i'm trying to catch up, but i read so many books during the first half of my pregnancy (because i always have the energy to read), & so much of what i read made no impression on me whatsoever. two & a half months ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just been reading some reviews of this on Amazon and i'm still totally confuddled by people who read books they find "horrible" all the way through! Its pretty obvious from the very beginning this ain't going to be a feel-good narrative in any way, shape or form so why carry on reading if you're easily revolted? Anyway, i loved this, i was a 70's child, grew up in the Gorbals and i saw plenty of what goes on in this novel. Abuse, violence, benign neglect, alcoholism, drugs and murders (all of th ...more
Nov 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Sunday Times described "What they do in the Dark" as: 'One of the most masterly, disturbing pieces of fiction I have read in a long while . . . will send shivers down your spine . . . will leave you haunted long after you've read the final page.' The complete antithesis of what I thought.

I picked up this novel after Marie Claire put it as their 'must read book of the month'. I had high hopes for the book as it was described full of nostalgia of 'penny sweets' in Yorkshire in the 1970's (I th
Joanne Sheppard
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What They Do In The Dark by Amanda Coe is actually quite funny at times. It also does a nice line in 70s childhood nostalgia, with lots of references that will make people start to wax lyrical about Spangles and clackers. Sounds fun, does it? Well, don't be fooled. It isn't.

That's not to say that What They Do In The Dark isn't an excellent book. The writing is brilliant throughout; the characters are utterly believable; the setting and period are evoked with a skill. And it's gripping: even when
May 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was written with two very separate story lines, one of two young girls and one of behind-the-scenes/actor dynamics. The lives of the two very different girls appealed to me and I was interested in the course of their story, but the alternate story caused an internal groan every time it started up again (I ended up just skimming those chapters). I hated. Hated. The end. It was so upsetting and brutal that I found myself actually angry at the author. "This is how the author is leaving th ...more
Renita D'Silva
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was gripped by this book. Completely unpredictable, totally absorbing, an unflinching portrait of mid 70s England. The ending shocked and upset me in equal measure. Brilliant. Shocking. Honest.
Bonnie Brody
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What They Do in the Dark: A Novel by Amanda Coe is a very edgy thriller told in three distinct voices. One voice is that of Pauline Bright, a poverty-stricken girl of about 11 from a dysfunctional family where she gets beaten up or gets the silent treatment from her mother - when mom's at home. Most of the time she is in Leeds quite likely hooking. Pauline goes hungry, rarely has her hair brushed and stinks so badly that some of the other girls breathe through their mouths instead of their noses ...more
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amanda Coe is a successful television script writer, she is co-writer of Shameless and the creator of As If. Both of these shows are gritty, down to earth, shocking and no-holds barred viewing and her debut novel; What They Do In The Dark is exactly that too. If you are shocked by stories of dysfunctional families, or offended by bad language, violence and abuse then this story is probably not for you. If, like me, you appreciate fiction that really does mirror real life, then you will most like ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-fun
This is one of those books that starts as one thing and turns into something else entirely. It is set in the mid-1970's and focuses on two middle-school-aged girls in England. One is middle class, and her parents are separating. The other is a neglected girl from the wrong side of town who is barely cared for by her delinquent relatives, and her mother, a travelling prostitute, comes to visit her a couple of times a year. Through a series of events, they end up befriending each other, and each i ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was awful! The writing was disjointed and obnoxious and frankly, the book seemed like two books that were blended together and never merged. One plotline was about a child star and that never went anywhere...I thought we'd see that Lallie had been abused and that weird Hugh was diddling her...but nothing occurred really with her or any of the characters associated with her. It was just a big dead end. Then, the two girls that the story really centered around were not really fleshed out and ...more
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book disturbed me. Seriously. I've been avoiding writing a review because I don't want to think about it again.

To start, I found it somewhat difficult to read. I understand that the book was written in the U.K. by a Brit, but there was so much slang in there that I had a hard time figuring out what she was talking about. There were characters with their own sideline plots that went nowhere, had zero growth, and pretty much seemed like filler pages to a book that probably could have been 50
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Gripping, disturbing, with an undercurrent of menace as well as a powerful evocation of place and time (Doncaster in the 1970s). I am of an age to appreciate the period detail, as well as the occasional boredom of long summer holidays passed without money to spend, so I really appreciate the attention to the finely-drawn background.
If you don't want to deal with divorce/separation, cruel mothers, neglect, prostitution and possibly the Yorkshire ripper, as well as inappropriate sexual behaviour b
Sep 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
I've just this second finished it, and I was intending to give it to charity but I think the kinder thing to do would be to just bin it.

As you've probably read on other reviews, this book is about two ten year old girls (Pauline and Gemma), with a bizarre subplot about a child actress who uses their school as a film set.

There was no real story that I could ascertain. Things were hinted at and you got to know the characters, and disturbing things happened and were either just hinted at or were co
Apr 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is NOTHING like Lional Schriver's book. (And I read it long before it became a movie.) We Need to Talk About Kevin was a work of genius,a compelling and disturbing read about the genesis of a serial killer and his unsuspecting parents.

Let's just say, this book wasn't that book!

However, I'm soooo glad this particular torture is over. I had no idea what the hell this book was about. Either it's way too deep, and I -- too shallow. Or, it was about nothing and I'm shallow enough.

Too many
Frank Parker
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is one of the worst books I have read in a long time. Coe writes scripts for the TV series “Shameless”. Like “Shameless” Coe’s first novel is populated with characters so grotesque as to be impossible to take seriously. Many of these stereotypes are incidental to the plot as is a good proportion of the narrative.
I am sure there is a place for a comedy based around a parody of the business of making a movie and if this was Coe’s intention I would have no complaint. Likewise, the extremely di
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I loved reading the girls' chapters, with their Coronation Street accents and their interesting '70s British stuff: "pop socks"??? Had to look that one up...

Got lulled into a false sense of security reading about the doldrums of filming on location and wandering along some sub-plots that appear to go places but maybe not (like the whole Quentin/Hugh thing) and then BAM. Very dark... and what was with the late night phone call to the agent? I still haven't figured that one out. About halfway thro
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
I can't say I would recommend this book to anyone, but if you were stuck on a plane with nothing else to read but this book or the sky mall magazine, I would say go ahead and read the book.

Amanda Coe's style of writing; short, choppy, british little fragments of a sentence were a little difficult and annoying for me. It constantly pulled me out of the story to try and re-read. Comprehend. Feel irritated by. <-- annoying, right? Now add british slang!

The plot was ok. I did not feel like all of
Michele Whitecotton
Apr 13, 2012 rated it did not like it

I don't even know what to say about this book other than I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I thought it was going to be really good when I first started it, but I was wrong. The chapters about Gemma and Pauline kept my attention and I enjoyed reading their story. The chapters about Lallie were bearable and maybe Vera's chapters fit in there somewhere. I have no idea why Quintin was even in this book. I don't understand at all how she fits in and towards the end I skimmed a lot because I didn't
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
A novel about bullying, and adults' mindless exploitation of girl children, and the plain brutality of Yorkshire life, against the counterpoint of 1970s entertainment culture. And while the subject matter was grimly ugly the writing was so interesting - so much was hidden within plain sight! - that as a reader I was rewarded by paying close attention. (Many of the GR reviewers who were so dismissive of the "extra" characters or surprised by the violence of the last 20 pages were just not reading ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Generally, the more hype and supporting quotes for a book, the more I'm going to be disappointed. This one promised the most shocking unexpected something or other ever. Hmm. For 95% of the book it wasn't that dark, wasn't shocking, and was a bit disjointed as well. I didn't think the child-star Lallie was very well drawn at all.

The two other girls were great though - in the sense of being real characters. I thought the ending was very odd. It read as if they, or the author, were on drugs. Unti
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I had very high expectations for this book. It sounded mysterious, exciting. I could not wait to find out, so what... What do they do in the dark?

However, besides the very shocking ending, ths book does not have much to offer. I can see a great opportunity to build on the the ending, explore the minds and events afterwards. However, what happens in the book, it simply ends there. The reader has to go through the whole book in order to basically get to the very beginning of a story, which then is
Rebecca Stimpson
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
i'm happy to be able to boost the overall rating on this book slightly - just wanted to say that the end made sense to me and i didn't think the quentin chapters were superfluous - to the plot, mmmaybe (although she has to do with something important about lallie) but certainly not to the overall themes of the book. i'd thought this was hyperbole, but the ending really is horrifying. i could feel something cold and sick in the center of my body as i was finishing the book. powerful, exceedingly ...more
Apr 20, 2012 rated it liked it
If you are in the mood for something that is dark and disturbing, this is the book for you. A British book through and through, there is an almost unrelenting sense of doom for all the characters from Lallie Paluza, child star, to Gemma, spoiled child and apprentice school bully. Adults are portrayed as hopeless dolts or sexual predators - folks who are only too willing to overlook reality in order to pursue their own pleasures. Children are portrayed as victims both of the adults in their world ...more
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
The writing: compelling but it was the only thing that ultimately kept me turning pages. I don't know. I love dark fiction. Especially compared to the usual 'warm hearted' crap. but this one something was a little off. I agree with some of the other reviews saying that there were sub-stories that didn't seem to fit in and the ending-yeah it was a surprise but something was off about it, if not disappointing. So overall it was okay. I was equally bored and just interested enough to finish it. It ...more
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Amanda Coe is a screenwriter and filmmaker whose television credits include the British series Shameless. She lives in London with her husband and two children.