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Description - Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

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 every been written.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099744412
ISBN-10: 0099744414
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 130mm x 16mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Apr-1997
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

US Kirkus Review » A grim, absorbing portrait of childhood in Northern Ireland in the 1950s, distinguished by a language of great clarity and vigor and by a relentless exploration of the corrupting power of secrets and fear. The narrator of this highly accomplished first novel is a small child when the tale begins, watching his mother, who is in turn watching for a ghost she believes to be inhabiting the family's house. Ghosts thread throughout here: There are the wonderfully strange, sad spirits inhabiting the stories characters tell one another. There are the ghosts of family members, dead as a result of "the troubles," preserved in memories that grow more heroic, and less real, with the passing years. And there are the secrets at the heart of the story, betrayals and suspicions that come to haunt the narrator and his parents, to corrupt and largely destroy the family. Deane, a critic and poet, manages both to catch the complex reality of a child's imagination as it grapples with the world (there are marvelous passages on the landscapes of Derry as seen through a child's eyes, the pleasures of childhood games, the nature of life in a large, rowdy, poor family) and the deforming power of hatred. In the 1950s, Catholics in Northern Ireland were still a voiceless minority. In one of the novel's most powerful scenes, the narrator's father must stand by helpless and watch as two of his sons are beaten by the local police. Most of the action here is internal, as Deane traces the growing consciousness of his narrator, his discovery of the acceptance of ambiguity and pain that accompany maturity. There is great cumulative power in this, and the narrator's discovery of an old, potent, poisonous family secret (combining matters of political importance with timeless flaws of the human heart) is quietly shattering. A work of exceptional power and originality. One of the year's most notable debuts. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Seamus Deane

Seamus Deane was born in Derry in 1940. He has published a number of works of criticism and poetry and is the general editor of the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. He is currently teaching at the University of Notre Dame.

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