Reading in the Dark (Seamus Deane)

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A haunted childhood, lived out in two dimensions. One is legendary: the Sun-fort of Grianan, home of the warrior Fianna; the Field of the Disappeared, over which no gulls fly; the house in Donegal where children are stolen away by demonic forces. The other is actual: the city of Derry in the Northern Ireland of the 40s and 50s; a place that is also haunted by political enmities, family secrets, lethal intrigue. The boy narrator of READING IN THE DARK grows up enclosed in these two worlds, sensing that they are intertwined in some mysterious ways that he both wants and does not want to discover. Through the silence that surrounds him, he feels the truth spreading like a stain until it engulfs him and his family. Claustrophobic but lyrically charged, breathtakingly sad but vibrant and unforgettable, READING IN THE DARK is one of the finest books about growing up - in Ireland or anywhere - that has ever been written.

Amazon Review

The Derry of poet Seamus Deane's first novel, Reading in the Dark is a perilous place. Ghosts haunt the stairwells of apartment buildings, a curse follows two families down through the generations, close friends turn out to be police informers and the police are as likely to persecute an innocent man as protect him. And hovering over all the violence, poverty and despair of 1940s Northern Ireland is the spectre of the "Troubles". The hero of the novel is an unnamed young man whose life turns upside down when a policeman frames him. Deception becomes his only means of self-defence. But the initial lie on the part of the policeman and the narrator's corresponding trickery are only part of the tangled web Deane weaves here. Early in the novel we learn that Uncle Eddie, an Irish Republican Army gunman, was blown up in the town distillery in 1922. In addition to sorting out his own problems, the narrator seeks the truth about his uncle's death.

Reading in the Dark sounds grim, and in some respects it is, yet leavening is provided by infusions of the Irish folktales and legends that inform the characters' daily life. And then there is the language. Deane is a poet, and his prose shows it: sex is like fire, "glinting with greed and danger"; ice snores and candles are swathed in a "thick drapery of wax". Readers looking for a thoughtful, serious and beautifully written novel will find one in Reading in the Dark.

 

Review

Reading In The Dark is a swift, masterful transformation of family griefs and political violence into something at once rhapsodic and heartbreaking. If Isaac Babel had been born in Derry, he might have written this sudden, brilliant book., Seamus Heaney

Marvellous...almost impossible to put down -- Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday

Go into your nearest bookshop and buy Reading In The Dark... A novel that no reader with any concern for their heart or mind should be without -- A. L. Kennedy, Scotsman

A wonderful evocation of childhood; a vibrant, unforgettable fragment that leaves you aching for more -- Robert McCrum, Observer

A profoundly emotive and seamlessly structured exploration of loss and regret. It is also funny and authentic. What more could one ask of a book? -- Antonia Logue, Guardian

Synopsis

A novel in which 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.

About the Author

Born in Derry in 1940, Seamus Deane has published several books of criticism and poetry; his essay collection ' Small World: Ireland 1800-2000' will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He lives in Dublin.