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What They Do in the Dark: A Novel Hardcover – March 19, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
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“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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Coe's writing is simply brilliant, setting the tone perfectly, getting into the mindset of a number of very different women, and expressing their outlook in a realistic and sometimes frank and disturbing manner. The precision with which she gets into the minds of the characters is matched by the accuracy of observation of their reactions to one another. This is taken to a length that is really quite surprising and utterly shocking, the theme gradually arising that there is a seed of bitterness (or even goodness) within one that can be turned towards evil with surprising ease, particularly in application towards women (and the emergence of Margaret Thatcher around this time may indeed also have relevance in this respect). It's a testament to the power of the writing then that this draws you in, even when it isn't clear where the novel is going, only for it to have even more of an impact when the conclusion arrives. It's a conclusion that is indescribably painful to read - be warned - and it is likely to remain with you for a long time.
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.
This is a book that pushes its readers well out of all comfort zones; it is harsh, brutal, oppressive, dark, dirty and, at times, altogether sordid. And yet it has a lot to say about the dangers of a society driven by inappropriate value sets, that turns a blind or indifferent eye to its less savoury failings and which essentially operates through illusory and fanciful views of itself, all too often fuelled by TV and the popular media. It takes a brave reader to make it to the end of this book; I doubt that anyone can get far into it and remain unaltered and unaffected by its contents, whether or not they spot where it is heading. It is a book that should be read and thought about, for all that; sometimes the dark needs to be faced.