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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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The Dark Paperback – February 26, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Paperback, February 26, 2002
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Editorial Reviews


"[McGahern] writes with a poignancy and passion. He has been likened to the early Joyce, and he has the same spare artistry."

"We must know that while we read this book, an experience much like touching the raw nerves of a growing boy, we are in the company of a very talented writer."
Library Journal

"The best novel to come out of Ireland for many years."
Irish Times

About the Author

John McGahern was born in Dublin and brought up in the west of Ireland. He is the author of three collections of short stories and six novels, including Amongst Women, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140277951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140277951
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
John McGahern, The Dark (Panther, 1965)
John McGahern would seem to be another of those authors whose talent is lionized in his native land, but who never quite had Americans get the hang of his work (q.v. Margaret Laurence). The Dark, McGahern's second novel, is a fascinating portrait of adolescence that deserves far, far wider appreciation than it seems to have ever received.
McGahern's homeland of Ireland may have something to do with that. The Dark was banned not long after its release for its rather cavalier treatments of both sex and religion, and so a novel published almost forty years ago has actually had something less than that to make a name for itself. Someday, Oprah will discover this book and feature it in her book club, and well, McGahern will have it made.
Oprah couldn't not love this book. It's dysfunction central. The home depicted here won't be found in the bucolic emerald landscapes on sees in movies of the time. Here, we have the poor Depression-era Ireland, where the family burns peat and straw because it can't afford coal, instead. The nameless protagonist's mother is dead, presumably in childbirth. The father is both verbally and sexually abusive to his (uncounted, in the novel) children; explicitly to his son, implicitly to his daughters (though whether there is anything to this forms the crux of a scene much later on in the novel). There is much here to lay the groundwork for the main character of this novel to hate his father, but McGahern isn't going to take the easy way out, building a complex love/hate relationship between the main character and his father, complicated by both their feelings for Joan, the oldest daughter.
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Format: Paperback
A poetically written story of a boy's coming of age in rural Ireland, "The Dark" is a journey through teenage years full of self doubt, sexual frustration and religious fear. The protagonist, whose name we're never actually told, is an intelligent boy who excels academically, though he doubts and fears his own future. He wonders if he should become a priest, go to the university to be a scientist, join the civil service or end up a potato farmer like his father. Through the years of indecision and study, the boy endures his widowed father's physical and verbal abuse. But as he grows older and learns more about the truth of the world, the past, present and future take on new perspectives and his relationship with his father changes from one of fear and hate to a subdued respect and love.
"The Dark" is lusciously written with a poetic grace hard to find in most contemporary novels. McGahern gently pulls the reader in, not only to the boy's psychological world, but also into the physical: the rural Irish landscape, the dark fearful Catholic confessional box and the squalid Irish farmhouse dominated by an abusive father. McGahern pulls you in, but does not need to hold you there; you'll stay of your own free will in this simultaneously simple and complex world, and find yourself haunted by it after you leave.
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Format: Paperback
To some extent, banned books have a special place in my heart. I recall a local bookstore chain had a sign in its window that advertised a banned book sale. All of the titles on sale were banned at one time or another. One of the titles was THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I decided to buy it, hoping my parents would take a fit and I could be a bit of a rebel. Both probably read the book and didn't even flinch an eye at their maverick son reading a forbidden book. Of course it was 1980, so it was hardly controversial anymore. A few days later, I had the book in school, and one of my favorite teachers complimented me on selecting a good book to read. She also suggested other titles which moved me past childhood books to more mature literature. In effect, her complimenting my reading selection was a significant step in my becoming an adult reader. Now when I see a banned book display, I often remember her, take a second look, and see what the banned books have to offer. More often than not only hype (the banning of some mediocre books made them instant best sellers).It is by taking a second look at a banned book display I discovered John McGahern's THE DARK.

I had heard of McGahern before, and actually own BY THE LAKE. When I learned that the book was banned in Ireland, I immediately thought it had to either offend Church leaders or mention sex. I also expected it to be somewhat shallow. Poking fun at the Church and Irish attitudes toward sex is so commonplace it is cliché. McGahern avoids this trap and writes a powerful coming of age tale that is both riveting and disturbing. The unnamed protagonist lives in an Ireland similar to the Ireland of ANGELA'S ASHES but unlike Frank McCourt, McGahern paints a portrait using sparse words to give vivid images of a country far behind the modern world.
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Format: Paperback
"The Dark" is an interesting novel in that it starts out very dark and then works its way gradually toward the light. This very short novel can be completed in several hours of reading.

The novel starts with the young protagonist being abused both physically and sexually by his father. We are not told exactly how the sexual molestation takes place or the specific acts but we know that the father lifts his son's nightshirt and rubs his son's thighs and that the sheets in the morning are 'dirty with intimacy'. The father, Mahoney, is a violent tempered man, threatened by all about him, and capable of taking out all his frustrations and inadequacies out on his children.

The protagonist is lifted from this horrible situation by his cousin who is a Roman Catholic Priest and Father Benedict, the teacher in his school. Yet the cousin, an odd fellow, verges on the edge of seduction of the young protagonist also - though nothing is allowed to happen since our young protagonist gives every sign that he is not interested in being seduced.

The major thrust of the novel is upward as the protagonist grows up, strives for excellence in his studies, receives a scholarship, and then gives up the scholarship to go to Dublin for a job.

Yet, it is not the decision to give up a scholarship for work that brings this novel from the dark into the light; it is the act of forgiveness that the protagonist feels for his father for the violence and molestation he experienced in his youth. We don't have a lot of deep psychology here in this book, the forgiveness emerges gradually and concretely and we breathe a sign of release when father and son express that they both acknowledge and feel familial love for each other.
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