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The book begins with an epigraph from She Moved Through the Fair The people were saying no two were e er wedBut one had a sorrow that never was said.Those two lines carry the essence of the story The long term consequences of keeping secrets are at the heart of Reading in the Dark The unnamed narrator describes his Catholic boyhood in Derry in the 40s and 50s Both his parents families have secrets held since the time of the Troubles in the 1920s As the protagonist moves from boyhood into adolescence, he becomes almost obsessed with the family legends and bits of conversations he has heard through the years Who really killed Billy Mahon Who was the informer Is Uncle Eddie dead or alive And why did McIlhenny run off to America Eventually the boy pieces together the truth, but it comes at some cost to himself and his family Too late he discovers that even those we love cannot bear our presence once we have uncovered what lies behind their deepest shame.Woven into the early narrative are some juicy Irish myths, ghost stories, and superstitions I would have welcomedof these as the story progressed, but Deane abandoned them in favor of aserious tone This was my only disappointment, as I d come to look forward to the next interjection of folklore All in all a fine work for a poet s first novel Like his narrator, Seamus Deane grew up in Derry in the 40s and 50s, so this could almost work as a fictional memoir. Deane presents Reading in the Dark as a novel and I am unclear as to how much is fact and how much is fiction Much of what he wrote about the dynamic of the Irish family situation rings very true in my own reality Irish families are a topic close to my heart His discussion of the things left unsaid in Irish family life rings true and is echoed in many other books about Irish and Irish American culture, ranging from Alice Carey s I ll Know it When I See it, to Frank McCourt s Angela s Ashes, to Tom Hayden s Irish on the Inside Much of what he writes about the continuing violence, prejudice and trouble in Northern Ireland is factual even if his characters are fictitious And I don t know that they are Deane presents a compelling look at life in embattled Northern Ireland He presents to the reader an intimate portrait of an Irish Catholic family He offers the superstitions surrounding this family He allows the reader to accept that a ghost can be a spirit or a memory that both are haunting and can be frightening enough to devastate lives The story is presented in a first person child s view, albeit it an omniscient view Dean walks us through the confusion of growing up an outcast in his community which is itself outcast from the society in which it is enmeshed We, as readers, are presented with several different perspectives of the outsider Deane s mother keeps herself just beyond the intimacy of her family, specifically her husband and sister, by keeping her secrets Secrets that eventually drive her insane Her husband, Dean s father, remains outside because of what he does not know, as well as what he does Each of the children in this family is left on the outside because none of them knows the whole truth For Irish Americans like Dean reaching back to untangle the things unsaid can be a healing process To write about it offers others a door into the silences in their own families I have read many books about Irish and Irish American families and the recurring theme of prevailing silence and how families function, or don t, around that Dean s direct insertion of the larger socio political picture into the dynamic speaksdirectly to the issue and perhaps can offer, at least for Deane, a way to find definition to who he is and why. Well, the blurbs on the back say Marvellousalmost impossible to put down Independent on Sunday and A profoundly emotive and seamlessly structured exploration of loss and regret It is also funny and authentic Whatcould one ask of a book My boorish response, however, is BAH So it s all about this boy growing up in Northern Ireland with his mother going round the twist and some great big family secret hanging over them like a dentist s drill, all about the grandfather and the uncle and the dad and the IRA and someone was an informant and betrayed the holy IRA and got shot but everyone was told he d went to Chicago and all this going on and on while the rather bewildered young lad, the I of the book, tries to grow up past the age of ten without himself being taken for an informant and beaten to a pulp, but instead learning the facts of life and going to the pictures with Irene Mackey Which by page 150 I couldn t give the right cheek of my own grandad s arse about I mean, I read Angela s Ashes, and that was something to moan about, fair play and all But this Give him a clip round the ear and a bag of marbles Jaysus, what a mitherer. If you re Irish, then you ve probably got a crazy uncle who occasionally comes home from the pub singing The Boys of 98 at the top of his lungs at three in the morning or your grandmother, after she slipped a little whiskey in your milk to help you sleep, tells you tales of Old Eire that make the Grimm Brother s Fairy Tales look like gobshite If you re not, well, then you have to read Seamus Deane s Reading in the Dark to truly get a glimpse of the Irish experience notably the Northern Irish experience of growing up in the Fifties in Derry. A collection of vignettes that gradually coalesce to form a complete narrative revolving around family, death, loyalty, and love Short, sweet, and stunning, with beautiful, simple writing. This is one of my favorite books I ve probably given away 15 copies of this book Much like Graham Swift s Waterland, this is an impeccably written, elegantly crafted novel Much prefer this treatment of Irish family life to Frank McCourt s Angela s Ashes. .FREE BOOK ☺ Reading in the Dark: A Novel ⚆ A New York Times Notable BookWinner Of The Guardian Fiction PrizeWinner Of The Irish Times Fiction Award And International AwardHugely Acclaimed In Great Britain, Where It Was Awarded The Guardian Fiction Prize And Short Listed For The Booker, Seamus Deane S First Novel Is A Mesmerizing Story Of Childhood Set Against The Violence Of Northern Ireland In The S And SThe Boy Narrator Grows Up Haunted By A Truth He Both Wants And Does Not Want To Discover The Matter A Deadly Betrayal, Unspoken And Unspeakable, Born Of Political Enmity As The Boy Listens Through The Silence That Surrounds Him, The Truth Spreads Like A Stain Until It Engulfs Him And His Family And As He Listens, And Watches, The World Of Legend The Stone Fort Of Grianan, Home Of The Warrior Fianna The Field Of The Disappeared, Over Which No Gulls Fly Reveals Its Transfixing Reality Meanwhile The Real World Of Adulthood Unfolds Its Secrets Like A Collection Of Folktales The Dead Sister Walking Again The Lost Uncle, Eddie, Present On Every Page The Family House As Cunning And Articulate As A Labyrinth, Closely Designed, With Someone Sobbing At The Heart Of It Seamus Deane Has Created A Luminous Tale About How Childhood Fear Turns Into Fantasy And Fantasy Turns Into Fact 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 Couldn t finish this onewhich is very rare for me The quality of the writing was good, however there was no connection between each chapter leaving me disconnected from the book There were no consistent characters to bond with and no story to lose oneself in And, having just visited Ireland, I was looking forward to this read. Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane was a beautiful story that showed how family secrets were tainted by the political conflict in Northern Ireland during the Troubles As my second experience of Irish literature, I learnt how mythical folktales about green eyed children taken by fairies and communal anger about victims of police oppression in Derry really shaped the protagonist s identity. Reading In The Dark is a first person account of an extraordinary childhood On the surface, the family seems to be stable enough They are Catholics and the novel s narrator is about half way along his parents progeny Nothing special thereThey are not rich, and apparently not poor They get by The lad explores the neighbourhood, makes friends, starts school Eventually he proves to be quite academic and he clearly goes from personal success to further personal success.But all the time there s something in the past that labels him There are people who call him strange names, accuse him of things he hasn t done He does not understand, but feels the consequences Life can be complicated when you re born to a Catholic family in Northern Ireland.The boy grows up in the 1950s and 1960s Via short, dated chapters, arranged chronologically and starting in February 1945, we able to build and perhaps experience the lad s world We share the boy s new experience, feel the changes in his life and body as he does But there is always something unsaid, intangible, but undoubtedly real and of consequence Everyone seems to know something, but he has little idea what it all means.Mother and father remain reticent Relatives and acquaintances allude to Eddie, the boy s uncle, who is not around anyClearly Eddie died in strange circumstances But in the Northern Ireland of the 1950s, you have to be careful what you say, when you speak and whom you mix with Just being seen talking to Sergeant Burke, the policeman, can result in your being labelled a traitor, a collaborator, or worse.The boy s relationship with the Church and its clergy is both fascinating and surreal There are moments of humour, times of fear, often juxtaposed There s a maths teacher whose class rules are so complex that any response seems punishable Serves them right It seems that whatever contribution an individual might make has the potential to render that person in need of strokes, but the ground rules demand that no one may opt out.It s the same in the wider society When you re a Catholic in Northern Ireland and perhaps if you are not there are no fences you can sit on Whatever you do it will be wrong There are enemies on both sides of every fence, so wherever you climb down, beware Tread carefully, know your place, stay on your guard But what if, like our young lad, you don t know what to beware of Slowly, however, the real truth behind Uncle Eddie s fate emerges It s only then that the growing boy, and indeed the reader, realises just how complicated and vindictive life can be.Reading In The Dark is a highly poetic novel The scenes are vivid, beautifully portrayed They are short, but each adds its own new detail to the bigger story of how a family has learned to cope with its own chequered past Those who don t know the mistakes of history are perhaps doomed to repeat them Those misled by untruth are not necessarily liars when they restate it But complicating the past probably confuses the present and disturbs the future Seamus Deane s novel, Reading In The Dark, is a vivid and moving portrait of a family troubled by a past it dare not admit.