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What They Do in the Dark: A Novel Hardcover – March 19, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“This arresting and disturbing debut novel focuses on two 10-year-old girls in a gritty 1970s Yorkshire town... Coe has many credits as a screenwriter, so the tight structure and exquisite tension-building throughout might be expected, but her pitch-perfect, unsentimental evocation of the pleasures, confusions, yearnings, and vulnerabilities of girls is what makes this a stunningly accomplished novel.” (The Atlantic)

“One of the most compelling novels published this year... Its savage wit and transporting eye for detail are the things that keep you along for the ride.” (The Times (UK))

“[An] impressive debut… A dark, disturbing look at a 1970s childhood, as a tetchy relationship between two schoolgirls culminates 
in a truly shocking ending.” (Marie Claire UK)

“This darkly funny, sordid, brutally honest concoction comes to a conclusion that nobody could predict, yet it could not have ended any other way, given what happens to Gemma and Pauline as their lives intertwine in a downward spiral toward disaster.” (Shelf Awareness)

“...Coe plots these ruined childhoods in a convincing fashion, including everything from drugs to divorce to molestation, without a heavy hand. She has an adept eye for psychological progression...” (Publishers Weekly)

“One of the most masterly, disturbing pieces of fiction I have read in a long while... will leave you haunted long after you've read the final page.” (Sunday Times (UK))

“Despite the undercurrents of violence and sex, this is really a story about character: how childhood innocence is lost, cynicism gained, morality discovered and then, perhaps, lost again… a terrific debut, full of energy and color; as propulsive as a thriller.” (The Guardian (UK))

“...superbly plotted, building, from seemingly disparate elements, with a dread inevitability to a tense and shocking finale.” (The Daily Mail (UK))

“A brilliant novel… The first half of the book is pure delight… But in the second half, you gradually realize this is not a gentle comedy at all. Indeed, the last 20 pages are among the most horrifying I have ever read.” (A. N. Wilson - Reader's Digest UK)

About the Author

Amanda Coe is a screenwriter and filmmaker whose television credits include the British series Shameless. She is the author of a collection of stories, A Whore in the Kitchen, and a novel, What They Do in the Dark. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081381
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine on July 26, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Up until close to the end of the book, it's very hard to pin down what Amanda Coe's novel is about. You can look for a structure, for themes and threads that work throughout the book, but it's hard to see any kind of conventional plot storyline or theme tying them together. What is clear however, by the fact that you are held completely within its grasp throughout, is that the book is exceptionally well-written, evoking a sense of period of the 70s from the perspective of two young Yorkshire girls. What is almost impossible to describe however is the shock ending which seems to come out of the blue, but it's only then that the careful orchestrating of events that has led up to it becomes clear.

The book lulls you into a false sense of security, seeming to be a straightforward nostalgic account of life in Yorkshire in 1975, seen from the perspective of two ten year-old girls from very different social backgrounds. Gemma is from a well-off family goes on foreign holidays with her parents and buys all the sweets and comics she likes. Pauline however, who is from a rough part of town, her mother a prostitute and mostly absent, is the smelly girl in the class, wild, dangerous and shunned by the others. Even though it becomes clear that Gemma's life isn't as perfect as it seems, the novel is about more than a comparative look at social differences in pre-Thatcherite Britain. We get other perspectives on women's lives from a variety of ages, classes and temperaments - from Lollie Paluza, a 10 year-old TV-star prodigy adored by Gemma, from Vera, a middle-aged actress working on a film with Lollie, and from Quentin, an American producer also involved in the film.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on September 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I wonder if one needs to have grown up in or around Doncaster in the 1960s or '70s to really appreciate just how terrifyingly realistic Amanda Coe's "What They Do In The Dark" actually is? Most probably not, because almost any predominantly working class area of the UK could provide the social mix and dysfunctional family settings which give rise to the horrific events portrayed in this book. Having spent my school years in that particular South Yorkshire town, though, I found her use of identifiably real places in it and her spot-on descriptions of many of characters from the class-rooms and housing estates of my childhood, often had me breaking out in a cold sweat. So eerily evocative of those times is her writing, I kept feeling I was back there; I had forgotten how bad a lot of it was.

Beautifully written, despite its often brutal and bleak subject matter, "What They Do In The Dark" is often a very gripping read. The book's well-handled multi-person perspective provides an excellent cross-section through the worlds and viewpoints of the main characters and provides crystal-clear insights into the almost casual causes of the most horrendous of events. If I have one complaint, it is that things are just a little overdone when it comes to the addition of an American character into the mix, complete with a predictably full complement of neuroses and prejudices of an altogether alien kind, which kicks the narrative needlessly off-kilter for a chapter or so. That lapse (and a persistently jarring usage of the word "nesh") aside, however, Amanda Coe has done a superb job here of bringing her established screen-writing expertise to bear, weaving her loosely interconnected threads into a devastatingly vivid portrayal of innocence turned sour.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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 when she's around in order to avoid inhaling the stench. Her life is pure survival and she does what it takes to make it through the day - shoplifting, cutting school, beating up other kids, and bad mouthing adults. Her family is notorious in the town she lives in as almost all of them are criminals.

Gemma is about Pauline's age and comes from a middle class family. She has all the material things that Pauline lacks but she is very unhappy. Her parents have just split up and her mother has moved in with her new boyfriend. Gemma's favorite part of each day is watching a television show starring Lallie, a girl who is a great mimic and does song and dance routines. Gemma likes to pretend that she is Lallie and that she is living Lallie's life. Pauline tries to be Gemma's friend but most of the time she is unsuccessful unless Gemma wants something from her.

Quentin is a producer sent to England from Los Angeles to see if Lallie will make it as the star of an upcoming movie about a princess. Quentin is more interested in scoring drugs and getting sex than she is in the movie business but she leads Lallie and her mother along.
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